1 June 1999


1 June 1999

Press Release


19990601 Draft Conclusions and Recommendations Contained In Special Decolonization Committee's Report Considered

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, 27 May -- The Caribbean Regional Seminar to review the political, economic and social conditions in the small island Non-Self- Governing Territories this afternoon concluded that implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples would not be complete as long there remained Non-Self-Governing Territories that still had to exercise their right to self-determination.

The Special Committee on Decolonization was concluding the sixth and final meeting of its Caribbean Regional Seminar, which was held in Castries, Saint Lucia, from 25-27 May.

In considering its report and draft conclusions and recommendations contained therein with a view to a further review by the Committee at United Nations Headquarters in New York before taking action, the Seminar also concluded that:

-- in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental human right;

-- all available options for self-determination were valid as long as they were in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned and in conformity with the clearly defined principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, and as enunciated in relevant General Assembly resolutions and decisions;

-- the United Nations had a valid ongoing role in the process of decolonization and that the mandate of the Special Committee was a major political programme of the United Nations;

-- there was still a need for identifying and implementing innovative practical and pragmatic approaches in the search for a specific solution to each of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories in accordance with the

freely expressed wishes of the populations concerned and conformity with the Charter and relevant resolutions and decisions of the Organization.

Among the other draft conclusions and recommendations, the Seminar also concluded that:

-- specific characteristics of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories should in no way prevent their populations from exercising the inalienable right to self-determination in conformity with the Charter and relevant Assembly resolutions;

-- the programmes on governance, in particular of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), should include a component that addressed issues related to the Non-Self-Governing Territories;

-- there should be closer cooperation between the Special Committee and the Economic and Social Council in furtherance of the provisions of assistance in the economic and political sphere from the United Nations to the Non-Self- Governing Territories;

-- there was a need for effective and constructive consultations between the administering Powers, Member States of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the representatives of Non- Self-Governing Territories in the formulation of appropriate laws in respect of offshore banking.

Among other draft conclusions and recommendations, the Seminar also concluded that:

-- the views of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories should be ascertained through legitimate acts of self-determination;

-- continued examination of the spectrum of options of self- determination by all parties concerned and dissemination of relevant information among the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories were important elements in achieving the goals of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Plan of Action;

-- access by the Non-Self-Governing Territories to relevant United Nations programmes in the economic and social sphere was in furtherance of capacity-building and consistent with necessary preparations for the assumption of full internal self-government.

-- all efforts should be made by Member States when presenting draft resolutions on decolonization to the Assembly, to continue to consider the views of the peoples of the Territories concerned.

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Participants also supported the initiation at the regional level, of a study on the access of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to programmes and activities of the United Nations in furtherance of the decolonization process. It was also recommended that United Nations Information Centres should be directed to disseminate information on decolonization to the Territories and to the administering Powers.

In a closing statement, the representative of Saint Lucia said that as the end of the decade drew near, it should be re-emphasized that the decolonization era had not ended, but rather had entered a more complex phase. That phase embraced the nuances of the development process of small island Territories. Those Territories had the same right to full self-determination as other countries that had successfully emerged from an internationally recognized decolonization process through the attainment of the legitimate political status options of independence, free association or integration.

If the spectre of "colonies in perpetuity" was to be avoided, he said, and the incomplete and unequal constitutional arrangement be corrected, Member States, beginning with the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, must redouble their efforts to ensure an orderly, relevant and coherent process of self-determination. "To achieve this we endorse the view that a second decade on the self-determination of the small island Non-Self-Governing Territories should be approved by the Assembly with the necessary resources to carry out an updated and realistic plan of action to address the unfinished business of decolonization."

As he closed the meeting, Peter D. Donagi (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said he was satisfied with the results achieved to date. Over the three days, many had made sacrifices to be present every day and that demonstrated their commitment to the issues at hand. The Committee was now undertaking a critical review of its work and what had been heard over the last three days would only reaffirm its commitment and its mandate. He thanked France for attending and hoped that the other administering Powers would come forward to acknowledge the efforts of the Committee.

Faysal Mekdad (Syria), Rapporteur and Chairman of the Drafting Group, introduced the report of the Seminar, which was orally amended.

In other matters this afternoon, the Seminar approved a resolution by which participants expressed their profound gratitude to the Government of Saint Lucia for providing the Special Committee with the necessary facilities for its Seminar and, in particular, for the very generous and kind hospitality and the warm and cordial reception accorded to the participants and observers throughout their stay on Saint Lucia.

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The report of the Seminar will be published as an official United Nations document.

The Special Committee will meet again in New York in June.


Over the three days that the Special Committee held its Caribbean Regional Seminar to review the political, economic and social conditions in the small island Non-Self-Governing Territories, it heard calls for approval by the General Assembly of a second international decade on the self- determination of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. For many participants the reason for such a call was that the first decade would end without a true resolution of the issues.

Addressing the Seminar at its opening session, George W. Odlum, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Saint Lucia, told participants that independence was a categorical imperative that all nations and all peoples should embrace. Even the "specks of dust", as Charles De Gaulle, a former President of France had so disparagingly described his French colonies, had the right to aspire to liberation and freedom, Mr. Odlum noted.

The Secretary-General, in a statement read out on his behalf at the opening session, said the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples strongly reaffirmed the right of all peoples to self-determination. The Declaration, the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments formed the basis of the Organization's role and the principles of self-determination. Though more than 80 million people had attained independence, and their countries had joined the United Nations as sovereign States, the work of the Special Committee remained unfinished. Some 2 million people in the 17 remaining Non- Self-Governing Territories continued to strive to determine their future.

At the opening session, Peter D. Donagi (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee, said the challenge was to speed up the implementation of United Nations resolutions on decolonization. The Committee had taken the initiative in seeking ways to facilitate constructive and purposeful dialogue with the administering Powers. The Special Committee could not rest on the laurels of past achievements -- a more difficult task lay ahead. That was to help the remaining people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, whom the world seemed to have overlooked in its rush towards globalization.

As the Committee considered its substantive issues, representatives of Member States, Non-Self-Governing Territories, and non-governmental organizations made statements pertaining to the issues of decolonization,

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self-determination, self-government, international law, independence, free association of States, and administering Powers.

One representative stressed that domestic law could not be pleaded over international law in the context of a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Nor could an administering Power use that law to make the United Nations remove a Territory from its list. Only the United Nations, through the application of international law, could make decisions as to whether a Territory had reached its full measure of self-determination. If the domestic law of an administering Power in fact determined what Non-Self-Governing Territories or self-government meant, the Declaration would amount to no more than wishful thinking.

One representative said that prior to any reclassification of the Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories, there should be a set of indicators developed and applied by the Special Committee which would amount to a "litmus test" for self-determination and self-governance. That test should include the following indicators: whether or not there was a credible effort to disseminate information to the population on the decolonization process; whether or not there were adequate educational campaigns on the Territory's constitutional options; and the degree to which a Territory had a self- sustaining economy, local control of institutions of cultural power; and a constitutionally dominant-subordinate relationship between the Territory and the -- possibly former -- administering Power.

Another representative stressed that recommendations from regional seminars formed a comprehensive policy statement with respect to the successful completion of the decolonization process. The fact that those recommendations emanated from the people of the Territories themselves was especially critical. If those recommendations from seminars were not translated into a General Assembly resolution with follow-up implementation, then ammunition was being given to those who criticized the relevance and usefulness of the seminars.

Another participant noted that the biggest problem for small undeveloped nations was the immigration of its people to the more prosperous States. Colonizing Powers in the past and the administering Powers today had made immigration considerably easy. As a result of those policies, many Non-Self- Governing Territories were depleted of their young working force and the demographics in many of those places had been alarmingly altered.

Rafael Dausa Cespedes (Cuba), Committee Vice-Chairman, stated that, taken as a whole, the achievement of the United Nations in the field of decolonization was among the most remarkable in the entire history of the Organization. The actions taken had helped to give birth to many nations that were now Member States. Serious misunderstandings, however, had arisen. One

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such case was that decolonization was over and United Nations and the Special Committee had nothing left to do. Cuba believed that the role of the Committee continued to be that of ensuring that the remaining Non-Self- Governing Territories exercised their right to self-government.

Another participant said that the continued existence of the Special Committee was a much talked about and speculated issue. Decolonization was the unfinished business of the United Nations and the international community. The Special Committee was vital to Non-Self-Governing Territories -- it represented the only recourse outside of the colonial world for people to be heard. He implored the Committee not to abandon the peoples of the Territories and condemn them to eternal colonization.

During its three-day session, the Committee also adopted its agenda, elected its three Vice-Chairmen: Mr. Dausa Cespedes (Cuba), Moctar Oune (Mali) and Vladimir Zaemsky (Russian Federation), and elected Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) as Rapporteur and Chairman of the drafting group. The following members of the Special Committee were also appointed to the Drafting Group: Juan Eduardo Eguiguren (Chile), Mowafak Ayoub (Iraq) and Mr. Zaemsky. The Committee's programme of work was adopted as orally amended by the Chairman.

Members of Special Committee of 24

Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, China, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone, Syria, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela and Yugoslavia.

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For information media. Not an official record.