Fourth Committee Forwards 11 Draft Resolutions to General Assembly, Wrapping Up Decolonization Debate on Legacies, Claims, Economic Growth, Self-determination

GA/SPD/559
14 October 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 7th Meeting (AM)

Fourth Committee Forwards 11 Draft Resolutions to General Assembly, Wrapping Up Decolonization Debate on Legacies, Claims, Economic Growth, Self-determination

Reaffirming its commitment to eradicating the scourge of colonialism, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today concluded its annual consideration of the question of decolonization, and forwarded 11 draft resolutions to the General Assembly, six of which were approved without a vote.

The Committee, in keeping with tradition, approved without a vote its omnibus draft resolution on Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

That text would have the General Assembly reaffirm that it was ultimately for the peoples of the Territories themselves to determine freely their future political status.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the Question of French Polynesia — also approved without a vote — the General Assembly would call upon the Government of France to intensify its dialogue with that Territory in order to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process.

Other draft resolutions approved without a vote today included three on the specific territories of New Caledonia, Tokelau and Western Sahara.  The sixth text was on study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  A draft decision on Gibraltar would be considered at a later date.

Among the five texts requiring a recorded vote was a draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter, which had 157 in favour to 0 against, with 4 abstentions (France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States).

Among the terms of that draft, the General Assembly would request the administering Powers concerned to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General information on economic, social and educational conditions, as well as political and constitutional developments in the Territories.

By a recorded vote of 159 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom), the Committee approved a draft resolution on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.

That text would have the General Assembly 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 and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources.

The Committee also approved by a recorded vote of 113 in favour to 0 against, with 51 abstentions, a draft resolution 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 terms of that draft, the General Assembly would urge those and other organizations of the United Nations system that have not yet provided assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible.

A draft resolution on dissemination of information on decolonization was approved by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 1 abstention (France).  By the terms of that text, the Assembly would consider it important to expand its efforts to ensure the widest-possible dissemination of information on decolonization, with particular emphasis on the options for self-determination available for the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The fifth text, approved by a recorded vote, was a draft resolution on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which had 161 in favour to 3 against (United Kingdom, United States, Israel), with 2 abstentions (France, Bangladesh).  By its terms, the Assembly would affirm its support for the aspirations of the peoples under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination, including independence.

Speaking during the action on items were representatives of the United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Argentina, Spain and the Bahamas.  A representative of the European Union Delegation also contributed.

Before consideration of those texts, the Committee heard from the representatives of three States as its general debate on decolonization concluded.  Calling for dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom, the representative of Chile urged both countries to desist from unilateral measures, stressing the need avoid unlawful exploitation of natural resources.

The representative of Algeria, stressing that colonialism had no place in today’s world, said it was the primary responsibility of the United Nations to work for emancipation of the non-self-governing territories.  The Western Sahara question should be determined by its people in accordance with the legally binding decolonization mandate.

The representative of Morocco said his Government was committed to a peaceful settlement of the Western Sahara question also in the interest of peace and stability of the wider region.  Morocco’s initiative for an autonomous status for the territory was considered serious and credible by the international community and provided the basis for an acceptable solution in a spirit of compromise.

The representatives of the United Kingdom and Argentina spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 October, to begin consideration on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its consideration of decolonization issues and take action on several related draft resolutions, contained in the 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 2014 (document A/69/23).  Also before the Committee were draft resolutions on Offers by Member States for training for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/C.4/69/L.3); and Question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/69/L.4).

Statements in Debate

JOSE ANTONIO COUSIÑO (Chile), associating with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Union of South American Nations and the Southern Common Market, said that, despite the success of the Special Committee over the decades, the decolonization process was far from over.  Stressing the special character of the Malvinas Islands (Falklands)*, he supported Argentina’s sovereignty rights over those territories and surrounding maritime areas.  Calling for dialogue between the two parties, he urged the United Kingdom to fulfil its obligations under United Nations resolutions and both countries to desist from unilateral measures.  In particular, he stressed the need to avoid unlawful exploitation of natural resources and military activities in the disputed area.  He welcomed the recent United Nations’ work on decolonization, including visiting missions and dissemination of information, and called for greater efforts by all parties."

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said colonialism had no place in today’s world and must be eliminated wherever it existed.  It was the primary responsibility of the United Nations to work for emancipation of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Women and men were born free and it was the world’s duty to ensure they remained so.  There was no alternative to full implementation of the principle of self-determination.  The Special Committee, in order to discharge its mandate effectively, should remain fully engaged.  On Western Sahara, he said it had been a decolonization issue since it was under Spanish colonial rule, adding that Algeria had not changed its stance on the issue.  The question should thus be determined by the Saharan people in accordance with the legally binding decolonization mandate.  The people’s human rights and right to natural resources must be fully respected.  Recalling the African Union’s full commitment to a settlement and the appointment of a special representative, he said the stalemate must be broken through direct talks between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente Polisario) and Morocco.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the Committee was engaged in its work this year in the context of a resurgence of terrorism and expressions of strong international determination against it.  Morocco was committed to a peaceful settlement of the Western Sahara question and in the peace and stability of the wider region.  It was Morocco that had put the question before the United Nations, at a time when Frente Polisario had not even existed.  The Madrid Agreement was not acceptable to some parties, which resulted in conflict.  Morocco’s initiative for an autonomous status for the territory was considered serious and credible by the international community and a basis for an acceptable solution in a spirit of compromise.  Resuscitation of old plans would not help the cause of peace and stability, he said, adding that Morocco’s initiative could be improved upon but not cast aside.  Citing Morocco’s positive record on human rights in the territory, he urged greater such efforts for the people of the Tindouf camps.

Right of Reply

The representative of the United Kingdom said his Government had no doubt about its position on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).  In 2013, the people in the territory had voted overwhelmingly to remain with the United Kingdom, a decision that had been submitted to the United Nations.  He rejected claims of militarization of the region, saying levels had been reduced since the conflict in 1983.  He also rejected allegations that the United Kingdom was exploiting the territory’s natural resources.  On the Turks and Caicos Islands, he said the United Kingdom would meet its obligations.  The South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands would remain Overseas Territories.

The representative of Argentina said the Malvinas (Falklands), South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands were illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, and he urged a resumption of negotiations for a settlement as indicated by the United Nations.  Instead, the United Kingdom had been distorting history to press its unlawful claims.  The General Assembly had discarded the self-determination principle in the Malvinas Islands (Falklands) because of the special nature of the sovereignty dispute.  The "referendum" was a spurious exercise in which British subjects residing on the Islands had been asked whether they would want to remain British.  The region’s militarization should be understood within the context of Britain’s legacy of imperialism.

Action on Texts

The Committee turned first to agenda item 56 and draft resolution I, on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the United Nations Charter, approving it by a recorded vote of 157 in favour to 0 against, with 4 abstentions (France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States).

Among the terms of that draft, the General Assembly would request the administering Powers concerned 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 were respectively responsible, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said that his delegation did not take issue with the main objective of the resolution.  The country continued to meet its obligations in that regard with its Overseas Territories, however, it believed that the decision as to 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 159 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).

That text would have the General Assembly 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 and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources.  It would request the administering Powers to take all steps necessary to protect the property rights of the peoples of those Territories.

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Argentina stated that self-determination required an active subject in order to be exercised, namely, a people living under alien subjugation.  Without that, there was no right to self-determination.  The Malvinas (Falkland), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas had been illegitimately occupied by the United Kingdom, which had expelled the population by force and replaced it with British nationals.  That rendered the issue of self-determination non-applicable to the Malvinas Islands (Falklands).

The draft resolution just approved, said the speaker, did not apply to the question of the Malvinas (Falklands), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  General Assembly resolutions on the Malvinas (Falklands), as well as those approved today, had expressly established that the way to put an end to that colonial situation was not through self-determination, but a negotiated solution to the sovereignty dispute between the only two parties, the United Kingdom and Argentina.

The General Assembly, continued the speaker, had discarded the applicability of the self-determination principle to the Malvinas (Falklands), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.  Further, in resolution 31/49, the Assembly asked Argentina and the United Kingdom to refrain from adopting decisions that introduced unilateral modifications while the Islands were in the negotiation process recommended by the Assembly.  Therefore, the unilateral and illegal exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural energy sources by the United Kingdom was openly contrary to the United Nations resolutions.

The Committee then turned to 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 which the General Assembly would urge those and other organizations of the United Nations system that had not yet provided assistance to the Non-Self-Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible.  It would ask the United Nations system and regional organizations to strengthen existing measures of support and formulate appropriate programmes of assistance for the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, in order to accelerate progress in their economic and social sectors.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation expressed his support for the achievement of the rights to independence and self-determination of the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and for the Special Committee’s plan of action on the elimination of colonialism.  However, the consideration of this extremely political question under the Economic and Social Council draws it away from its main issues of coordinating activities in the economic sphere.  Therefore, the Russian Federation had abstained.

That text was then approved by a recorded vote of 113 in favour to 0 against, with 51 abstentions.

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom reaffirmed his country’s support for the specialized agencies, but said that the status of those agencies must be carefully respected.  The delegation, therefore, had abstained.

Also speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Argentina said that the draft resolution must be applied in conformity with the relevant United Nations decisions and resolutions, including of the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization, on the specific Territories.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/C.4/69/L.3), approving it without a vote.

By its terms, the General Assembly would urge the administering Powers to take effective measures to ensure widespread and continuous dissemination in the Territories of information relating to offers of study and training facilities made by States, and to provide all necessary facilities to enable students to avail themselves of such offers.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on the Question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/68/L.4).  By the terms of the revised text, the Assembly would welcome the commitment of the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations.  It would call on the parties to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Making a general statement before the vote, CARL HALLERGARD of the European Union Delegation, welcomed the resolution and reaffirmed support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve a just and acceptable political solution providing self-determination to the Saharan people.  The European Union encouraged the parties to work towards a solution within the framework of the United Nations.  Welcoming the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2152 (2014), he favoured the parties’ commitment to continue to work towards dialogue in order to enter an intensive phase of negotiations.  He also expressed full support for the methodology of “shuttle diplomacy” and encouraged the parties to cooperate with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Encouraging the parties to collaborate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in implementing confidence-building measures, he supported the Council’s request of UNHCR that it maintain its consideration of a refugee registration in the Tindouf camps.  He welcomed the progress made, mainly the expansion of the number of beneficiaries from the family visits and on the implementation of the Plan of Action.  Nevertheless, the European Union remained concerned about the implication of Western Sahara conflict on security and cooperation in the region.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

Next, the Committee turned to a package of drafts IV, V, VI and VII, approving all without a vote.

By the terms of draft resolution IV on the Question of New Caledonia, the General Assembly would urge all parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia and within the framework of the Noumea Accord, to maintain their dialogue in the spirit of harmony.

Draft resolution V on the Question of French Polynesia would have the Assembly call upon the Government of France to intensify its dialogue with that Territory in order to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process, under which the terms and timelines for an act of self-determination would be agreed.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General, in cooperation with relevant specialized agencies of the United Nations, to compile a report on the environmental, ecological, health and other impacts as a consequence of the 30-year period of nuclear testing in the Territory.

According to draft resolution VI, on the Question of Tokelau, the Assembly would welcome the commitment of both the Territory and New Zealand to work together in the interests of Tokelau and its people and call on the administering Power and United Nations agencies to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further developed.

The terms of draft resolution VII, 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, the Assembly would reaffirm that it was ultimately for the peoples of the Territories themselves to determine freely their future political status.  It would also have the Assembly urge Member States to contribute to the efforts of the United Nations to usher in a world free of colonialism.

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote on draft VII, the representative of Spain said he joined the consensus on the resolution and backed the principle of self-determination.  However, that principle was not the only relevant condition for self-determination in the case of Gibraltar.  Spain was willing to work on the question of Gibraltar, but only through conversations with the United Kingdom.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom stated that his country regretted that the Special Committee on Decolonization continued its outdated approach and failed to take into account how the relationship between his country and its Overseas Territories had modernized.  Some of the language, therefore, was unacceptable to the United Kingdom.  Nor did his country accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar did not have the right to self-determination.

Also speaking in explanation of position, Argentina’s representative expressed support for the right of self-determination in the Territories.  The exercise of that right should be in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of the Territories concerned.  In that connection, Argentina reiterated its long-standing call to the administering Powers to work in cooperation with the United Nations system to develop education programmes, which fostered an awareness of the right to self-determination.  At the same time, in accordance with resolution 1514 (XV), the principle of self-determination was only one of two guiding tenets that applied to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The question of the Malvinas Islands (Falklands) was to be considered a “special and particular case” where the principle of territorial integrity, as established by numerous General Assembly resolutions, was also to be considered.  He reiterated his country’s “permanent willingness” to renew negotiations with the United Kingdom.

The Committee next approved draft resolution VIII on dissemination of information on decolonization by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 1 abstention (France).

By the terms of that text, the Assembly would consider it important to expand its efforts to ensure the widest-possible dissemination of information on decolonization, with particular emphasis on the options for self-determination available for the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and to that end, request the Department of Public Information, through the United Nations Information Centres, to actively seek new and innovative ways to disseminate material to the Territories.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation had opposed the text, as the obligations on the Secretariat placed an unwarranted drain on its scarce resources, which was unacceptable.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina expressed firm support for self-determination of the peoples that remained under colonial occupation.  However, the approved text should be interpreted in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Fourth Committee.  All of their pronouncements on the Malvinas Islands (Falklands) had characterized it as a special colonial situation and acknowledged that it involved a sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas (Falklands), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, between Argentina and the United Kingdom as the only two parties.  The resolutions also had established that the only way to solve that dispute was by reconvening bilateral negotiations 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 IX on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, by a recorded vote of 161 in favour to 3 against (United Kingdom, United States and Israel), with 2 abstentions (Bangladesh, France).  By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly would affirm its support for the aspirations of the peoples under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination, including independence.  The Assembly would request the Special Committee to, among other things, formulate specific proposals to bring about an end to colonialism and to report thereon to it at its next session.

Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote was the representative of the United Kingdom, who said his delegation had voted against the text, as his country continued to find some of its elements 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 Argentina stated that visiting missions should only proceed in those Territories where there was no sovereignty dispute.  Furthermore, the General Assembly should approve the sending of any visiting mission.

The representative of Spain said that he had voted in favour of this resolution, but stressed that self-determination was not the only principle governing the decolonization process.  Furthermore, the General Assembly should send visiting missions to only those territories where there was no sovereignty dispute.

The representative of the Bahamas, speaking after the passage of draft VII on the question of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Island and the United States Virgin Island, under agenda item 59.  The Bahamas reaffirmed its interest and concerns about Turks and Caicos Island.  The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had endorsed the report of the mission establishing the political, economic realities of Turks and Caicos, as well as the conduct of a referendum to seek the views of the people the island.  She expressed grave concerns following the election of 2011, as the overall state of political affairs was still less than desirable.  She reaffirmed her support for the full restoration of democracy.

It was announced that consideration of a draft decision of the Question of Gibraltar would be taken up at a later date.

 

* 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.