Decolonization

Children during the 2007 Tokelau Self-Determination Referendum. UN Photo/Lone Jessen
Children during the 2007 Tokelau Self-Determination Referendum. UN Photo/Lone Jessen

When the United Nations was established in 1945, 750 million people - almost a third of the world's population - lived in Territories that were non-self-governing, dependent on colonial Powers. 

Since then, more than 80 former colonies have gained their independence. Among them, all 11 Trust Territories have achieved self-determination through independence or free association with an independent State. Former Non-Self-Governing Territories ceased to be on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories due to their change in status or as a result of their choice of independence, free association or integration with an independent State. Today, there are 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining and fewer than 2 million people live in such Territories.

The Department of Political Affairs advises the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Decolonization on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples (also known as the “Special Committee on Decolonization” or “C-24”), whose role is to monitor implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)) and to make recommendations to the General Assembly on its application.

Among its functions, DPA's Decolonization Unit:

  • Monitors political, economic and social developments in each of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list, and prepares annual working papers on each Territory;
  • Provides substantive advice for the C-24 and the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the ​General Assembly, where representatives and petitioners from the Territories speak about the concerns and aspirations of their people;
  • Provides political advice for the C-24 on visiting missions to Territories, as well as for annual regional seminars held alternately in the Pacific and the Caribbean, bringing together representatives of the Territories and members of the C-24;
  • Works with the Department of Public Information to prepare informational materials for the Territories, explaining the options available to them in moving toward full self-government based on the Charter of the United Nations; and
  • Maintains the website entitled “The United Nations and Decolonization”, in coordination with the Department of Public Information.