7 October 1999


7 October 1999

Press Release



Significant progress towards self-determination by the Non-Self- Governing Territories would come only through full and active participation by the administering Powers in the work of the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization, the representative of Fiji told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon, as it concluded its general debate.

While acknowledging the willingness of the Powers to participate in informal dialogue with the Special Committee, he said that such participation had been limited to discussions concerning resolutions and some specific agenda issues. Such participation did not significantly contribute to the political future of the Territories.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that the administering Powers should change their attitude towards visiting missions. Ultimately, their refusal of such missions was understood not as a rejection of the Special Committee’s competence over the Non-Self- Governing Territories, but as a conspiracy to deny the people of those Territories the opportunity to exercise their right to self- determination.

Most speakers in the debate urged the administering Powers to facilitate visiting missions and to address programmes to promote the political, social, economic, educational and human development of the Territories. The right to self-determination of the Non-Self-Governing Territories remained unfulfilled, they said. Unjust treatment of indigenous peoples and the slow progress towards self-government were also emphasized.

The representative of Spain said this afternoon that in most cases, decolonization had been achieved through self-determination by colonized populations. However, that principle should not always be applied. In certain cases, decolonization had been achieved through restoration of the territorial integrity of the State in question. That should be the case of Gibraltar. Spain had deep respect for the rights of Gibraltar’s population, but that did not make it a nation with sovereign rights.

Fourth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/SPD/160 6th Meeting (PM) 7 October 1999

Also citing territorial integrity, the representative of Morocco said Western Sahara was not a problem of colonization. It was a question of territorial integrity. Morocco had no objection to the referendum in Western Sahara, provided the rights of the whole population were respected. Ill-informed or ill-intentioned people were alleging that his country was holding up the referendum. That was completely false.

Also speaking in today’s debate were the representatives of Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Brazil, Tunisia, Kenya, Chile, Senegal, Bolivia, Haiti and Namibia.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to take action on the drafts related to decolonization issues.

Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on decolonization issues. (For background information, see Press Release GA/SPD/157 of 4 October 1999.)


SILVIA JOSEFINA CORTES MARTIN (Spain) said that the colonial situation of Gibraltar required the attention of the international community. Her delegation was once more requesting an end to it. The General Assembly had clearly indicated how the decolonization of Gibraltar should be implemented. In most cases, decolonization had been achieved through self-determination by colonized populations. However, that principle should not be applied in every case. Present inhabitants of Gibraltar were not a colonized people: they were descendants of those brought in by the colonizing people to trade and to work at a military base. That was the sense of General Assembly resolution 2353 (XXII), paragraph 2, which declared the referendum organized at the time by the administering Power in Gibraltar contrary to General Assembly dispositions.

The international community and the General Assembly resolutions had established certain limits to the application of the principle of self- determination, she said. In certain colonized countries, decolonization had been achieved through restoration of territorial integrity of the State in question. That should be the case of Gibraltar. In its specific case, resolution 2353 (XXII) stated in its preamble that any colonial situation, which completely or partially destroyed the national unity and territorial integrity of a country was incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations. Several General Assembly resolutions had reiterated the applicability of the principles of territorial integrity to the decolonization of Gibraltar.

The update of the so-called “constitution” of Gibraltar laid down by the United Kingdom in 1969 had only made matters worse, she said. Spain would oppose any initiative fraudulent to the Treaty of Utrecht, the Spanish-British negotiating process and the doctrine of the United Nations. Although the transfer of authority of Gibraltar under the Treaty of Utrecht had not been a voluntary act, Spain had always respected that Treaty. The Treaty of Utrecht and its clauses, including Article X, were applied. Gibraltar might be British or Spanish, but any other option was excluded. Spain had deep respect for the rights of the population of Gibraltar, but that did not make it a nation with sovereign rights.

Gibraltar was a “parasite” economy that survived thanks to and at the expense of Spain and it was keeping the neighbourly Spanish territory depressed, she said. Spain wished economic prosperity to the inhabitants of Gibraltar, but its economy could not be established on corrupt grounds. Gibraltar should establish a sound and solid economy with full respect for the rules of the European Union. There should be no illicit trafficking or financial opaqueness. Negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom were held within the Brussels Process, which had started in 1984. The last proposal dated back to 1997. In spite of the goodwill of successive Spanish Governments, there had been no improvement on that issue. The inhabitants of Gibraltar had nothing to fear from the dialogue. Spain had full intention to ensure due respect for the legitimate interests of the inhabitants of Gibraltar.

Mr. BAEISA (Yemen) expressed the hope that the new millennium would mark a new period during which the aspirations of peoples still under colonialism would be achieved. At the end of the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism the spectre of colonialism and occupation had virtually disappeared. Progress towards ending colonialism had not been easy but the cause was a just one.

He said pockets of colonialism still remained and many people were still living under the domination of others. Military installations in colonized territories should not jeopardize those Territories. Many of those Territories were still suffering from debt and from natural as well as man-made disasters. They were also facing problems resulting from globalization.

ABOUL-GHEIT (Egypt) said that the international community must redouble its efforts to achieve the lofty goals of the United Nations, especially in view of the existence of 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories in different parts of the world. He called on the administering Powers to assume their responsibilities, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions. They should cooperate with the Special Committee and be flexible and realistic in their policies. Colonialism should be ended irrevocably.

Continuing, he asked the administering Powers to allow access to the visiting missions dispatched by the United Nations and to provide political, economic and constitutional information in accordance with their responsibilities under article 73e of the Charter. He also confirmed the importance of respect for the inalienable rights of the people of the Territories for sovereignty over their natural resources.

There had been a recent breakthrough in the situation in Western Sahara, which was characterized by a resumption of the identification process and plans for carrying out the referendum in 2000 on the basis of the settlement plan. He regretted the violence in East Timor following the conclusion of the public consultation and said that the international community should take into account concerns of the Indonesian Government during the interim period. The results should not be regarded as a victory or defeat of any party. Egypt would support all efforts to achieve the objectives of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence.

Mr. RAYANI (Libya) said all options were valid so long as they were in accordance with the wishes of the colonized peoples. Territories under occupation should not be used to stockpile nuclear or other weapons, or hazardous and toxic wastes. The Special Committee must continue to make recommendations until colonialism was completely eradicated.

Endorsing the proposals made at the Caribbean regional seminar on small island developing States, he said the administering Powers should not damage the economic rights of those Territories, rights recognized under international law. Libya called for economic subsidies and grants to those Territories by United Nations specialized agencies and related institutions. The representatives of the Territories should be able to participate in meetings and seminars and meetings of the specialized agencies.

MOHAMMED HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran) said that although more than 80 million people had attained independence and their countries had joined the United Nations as sovereign States, the work of the United Nations remained unfinished. It was necessary to redouble the efforts of the international community to put an end to colonialism. The principle of self-determination should be applicable to the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories. People should be given an opportunity to choose their own future freely, as envisaged in the Charter.

He believed that the process of engagement of the administering Powers should be continued, and constructive dialogue with them should be developed. It was imperative that the administering Powers considered a new approach vis-à-vis the work of the Special Committee and gave their cooperation where required. The necessity of transmitting information by the administering Powers under Article 73e of the Charter, and of fostering awareness of the right of self-determination in Non-Self-Governing Territories, should be emphasized. Also, the Administering Powers should abandon all military activities in the Territories. Further, they should take part in the work of the Special Committee. He also cited the importance of visiting missions of the United Nations.

LUIZ TUPY CALDAS DE MOURA (Brazil) associated himself with Mexico’s statement on behalf of the Rio Group, and with Uruguay’s statement on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries, Bolivia and Chile.

He reiterated the profound consternation of the Brazilian people following the violence perpetrated by militia forces in East Timor. Brazil was contributing to both the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) and the International Force for East Timor. There was a political and administrative vacuum in East Timor and Brazil supported the Secretary-General’s proposals on that issue.

Regarding the issue of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas), he said Brazil hoped a final solution to that question could be found soon.

MOHAMED SALAH TEKAYA (Tunisia) said that the fact that there was still a number of Non-Self-Governing Territories in the world called for an assessment of the progress achieved. The role of the Special Committee on Decolonization was still important. This year, it was committed to assessing its working methods. Ideas and proposals had been discussed, and informal consultations with administering Powers had been held. As a member of the Special Committee, his country hoped that the dialogue would continue. The contribution from representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories was also essential.

One of the major tasks of the Committee was to ensure the right of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories to choose their status, he continued. It was necessary to promote the awareness of their rights to the people. The information communicated by the administering Powers, as well as seminars and visiting missions were valuable means of evaluating the situation in the Territories. Small island developing States, which represented the majority of Non-Self-Governing Territories, had benefited from special attention on the part of the Special Committee. The work of decolonization in accordance with the United Nations Charter required a new impetus.

FARES KUINDWA (Kenya) said that the inadequacy of political, economic, social and educational preparedness should not delay the right to exercise self- determination.

On the question of Western Sahara, he called for the completion of demining of sites, for the repatriation of refugees eligible to vote and their immediate families, as well as other Saharawi residents outside the Territory. Those activities, however, could not be completed until arrangements for the implementation of repatriation had been finalized between the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the two parties concerned.

He commended Indonesia for allowing the international community to send a United Nations-mandated multinational force to restore order in East Timor. Kenya welcomed the unequivocal statement by that country’s Foreign Minister in the General Assembly, which reiterated his Government’s responsibility to fulfil the newly-expressed will of the majority of East Timorese to seek a new destiny outside the Indonesian Republic.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) expressed concern over the fact that the political, economic and educational advancement of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories remained unfulfilled. His delegation was concerned over the unjust treatment of indigenous peoples of the Territories. It was also concerned over the lack of substantial progress in the determination of the free and voluntary choice of the peoples on the political future of the Territories and the full implementation of the choice, whatever it may be.

He acknowledged the willingness of the administering Powers to participate in informal dialogue with the Committee, but said that such participation had been limited to discussions concerning resolutions and some specific agenda issues. The only way to make any significant progress was for the administering Powers to fully and actively participate in the work of the Committee of 24. Fiji also urged the administering Powers to facilitate the visits of United Nations missions to the territories and to address programmes to promote political, economic, educational and human development in the Territories. More attention needed to be paid to the infrastructure of development, business and commerce, transfer of appropriate technology and flow of investment capital to stimulate economic growth and sustainable economic development. Programmes should include natural disaster preparedness and relief, self-employment projects and poverty eradication plans. The peoples of the Territories should be fully consulted on all development actions. Special rights of the indigenous peoples in the Territories must be guaranteed, and their tradition, customs and culture respected.

Some genuine recent developments in the case of a few Territories to advance the decolonization process should be applauded, he continued. He stressed the exemplary role of New Zealand as the administering Power in guiding the people of Tokelau towards a decision on its future. Another example was the Noumea Accords in respect of New Caledonia and the provision of the Accords for a national referendum on political independence. Despite the atrocities that followed in the wake of the popular consultation in East Timor, the decision of the people of that Territory must be respected. The international community should learn from the East Timor experience. It should be fully prepared for future referendums of a similar nature.

JUAN LARRAIN (Chile) said that since 1984, and with the exception of East Timor, no non-Self-Governing Territory on the Special Committee’s agenda had exercised its right to self-determination. Under a critical review of the Special Committee’s work, its members and the administering Powers had agreed to informal consultations to examine ways of ascertaining the wishes of the peoples of Non- Self-Governing Territories with regard to their constitutional future.

To that end, he said, informal guidelines had been agreed to develop a plan of action for the period beyond the year 2000. Each Territory should be considered on a case-by-case basis in order to develop a specific programme of work to be endorsed by the respective territorial governments. That represented a significant step forward since, after 15 years of virtual inactivity, it would allow further progress towards decolonization based on cooperation between the Committee, the administering Powers and the respective territorial governments.

He said that the Special Committee’s formal cooperation with New Zealand illustrated how it was possible to work with the administering Powers. Moreover, the establishment of specific programmes of work for each Territory would permit Committee members to address the particular situation in the Territory more effectively, taking due account of the special characteristics of each.

AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) said that the question of Western Sahara had a long history. It was not a problem of colonization, but of territorial integrity. His country had agreed to a referendum, which was to be organized by the United Nations. It had spent more than $80,000 on the organization of that event and on logistic support to MINURSO. The population of Western Sahara enjoyed the same privileges as the rest of the country. Ill-informed or ill-intentioned people were alleging that his country was holding up the referendum. That was senseless and completely false. It had not been his country that had objected to the initiatives and delayed the implementation of the agreements. The reports of the Secretary- General were proof of that. Morocco had negotiated on the implementation of the settlement plan, as was its duty.

Turning to the problem of refugees, he said that his country knew the situation on the ground. For many years, it had appealed to the world for help to the detainees, many of whom had been kidnapped and taken away from their families. People were kept hostage in the camps abroad and they must go home. None of the petitioners had wanted to talk about that. Morocco called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish its presence in the region. It had also made preparations for the return of all refugees, hoping that they would participate in the development of the region. People who had not been able to express their will freely should be repatriated. All the population must participate in the referendum. A great deal had been said about the delays, but those rejected had the right to appeal.

Regarding recent incidents in Laaoyoun, which had been mentioned in the statement by the representative of Mexico, he said that it had been a students’ demonstration and there had been no deaths. Such incidents happened everywhere in the world. His country had no objection to the referendum, provided the rights of the entire population were respected. The United Nations should give particular attention to the daily management of the process. The fundamental rights of the refugees should be respected.

DOUDOU SALLA DIOP (Senegal) said that decolonization, one of the greatest battles of the century, had made it possible for a small group of 51 States to expand to the present United Nations family of 188 Member States.

He stressed the need to be vigilant and to encourage fruitful dialogue between the administering Powers and representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories as had been done in the cases of New Caledonia, Tokelau and East Timor. That spirit of cooperation, dialogue, partnership and consensus remained the Special Committee’s best weapons.

It was over-hasty to compare Western Sahara with East Timor, he said. Morocco had no lessons to learn either in the area of the struggle for the emancipation and independence of the African continent, or in the domain of respect for human rights. Morocco’s people and sovereigns -– King Mohamed V and King Hassan II -- had contributed greatly to the liberation of Africa.

He said that the spirit of wisdom and compromise that had prevailed at Houston must continue to inspire cooperation between Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) for the organization of a free, transparent and impartial referendum in Western Sahara in accordance with the Settlement Plan and with the participation of all the Territory’s people.

ALBERTO SALAMANCA (Bolivia) said that his country had always supported the decolonization process. Today, that process must be brought to a conclusion. The principle of self-determination should be applied to the 17 remaining countries on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. They should be free of economic and social dependence and their fundamental rights should be respected. There were various processes for self-determination in Non-Self-Governing Territories; each situation should be seen on its own merits.

In the case of East Timor, the reaction to the decision of the people was disturbing. The will of the people must be implemented. The process in Western Sahara must move to its conclusion, but he was concerned about recent outbreaks of violence there. He welcomed progress in Tokelau and New Caledonia and said that the relevant accords must be implemented. Dialogue within the Special Committee should be encouraged. As it was difficult to organize visiting missions, the role of seminars should be promoted. Information on the situation in the Territories and their population would facilitate the work of the Committee.

BERTRAND FILS-AIME (Haiti), supporting the statement on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country had always been sensitive to questions of decolonization and liberation. However poor, Haiti had always contributed in one way or another to the cause of emancipation.

He said that the United Nations had contributed effectively to the decolonization of more than 80 Territories since World War II and helped more than 80 million individuals to live in liberty. It was not necessary to be a Toussaint Louverture, a Dessalines, a Bolivar, a Gandhi, a King or a Mandela to recognize that titanic accomplishment.

However, he said, the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism was ending while the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories continued to struggle for the right to determine their future. They must not be marginalized or abandoned to their own fate under any pretext. Those Territories, most of which were in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, were not mere grains of dust: two million souls lived there and they had the right to choose and control their own destiny, to protect their environment and natural resources and to conserve their traditions and culture.

He called on the administering Powers to create the political, social, economic and educational conditions to help those peoples to choose wisely in the exercise of their right to self-determination.

MUSINGA T. BANDORA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that in the last few years, some of the administering Powers had engaged in dialogue with the Special Committee. That was critical to the achievement of the goal of self-determination of the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories. The cooperation of the administering Powers could also manifest itself in their attitude towards visiting missions. Ultimately, their refusal of such missions was understood not as a rejection of the competence of the Special Committee over the Non-Self-Governing Territories, but as a conspiracy to deny the people in the Territories the

opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination. The Powers should also submit reports, as required under Article 73e of the Charter.

He wanted to see the people in the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories exercise their right to self-determination on the basis of political options given to them pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 1514 and 1541, he said. Independence or any other status should not be imposed on them. His country would continue to view with scepticism statements and claims regarding the wishes of those people, until they had been allowed to freely determine their status in a transparent and internationally supervised arrangement. That right could not be conditioned on factors of geography, wealth or size of population.

He said that the administering Powers, as well as specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations, should expand their assistance to the Non-Self- Governing Territories. The Territories should also be given a greater say in the exploitation and management of their natural resources and use of their generated earnings. They should have greater autonomy in decision-making.

The situation in Western Sahara remained a matter of serious concern, he said. He hoped that the appeals process would be handled expeditiously and that the difficulties would be resolved. He was equally concerned at reports of the deteriorating security situation in El Aioun, which could have a negative impact on the holding of the referendum. Regarding East Timor, now that the United Nations had returned to Dili, the situation should return to normal. The wishes of the people of East Timor should be realized.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) commended the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) and Morocco for their flexibility. Namibia hoped that cooperation would pave the way towards the peaceful settlement of the Western Sahara question for the benefit of the two parties and the region as a whole.

He said that while the Secretary-General’s report (document S/1999/954) of 8 September raised hope for ironing out remaining issues before the referendum date of July 2000, his Government was concerned about the growing number of appeals. Bearing in mind the respect for the democratic right of appeal of the applicants rejected by the Identification Commission, Namibia hoped the appeal process would not be turned into a second round of the identification process which could be used to delay the referendum even further.

He said that the conflict in Western Sahara, as a problem of decolonization, could be resolved through the joint efforts of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Settlement Plan by which the Saharawi people could exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and national independence.

Right of Reply

KATHERINE SMITH (United Kingdom) in response to the remarks about Gibraltar by the representative of Spain, said that the position of her country on that question was well known and had been last expressed in exercise of the right of reply in the General Assembly on 21 September. As for the comments regarding the Falkland Islands by Iraq yesterday and Brazil, Chile and Bolivia today, the

position of the United Kingdom had been recently set out in a written statement and expressed in the General Assembly on 21 September. Both statements had been circulated and were available to the delegates.

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For information media. Not an official record.