11 February 2004


Press Release

Special Committee on


1st Meeting (AM)



In Remarks to Committee, Secretary-General Welcomes

Consultations with Administering Powers, Describes Colonialism as ‘Anachronism’

While decolonization was a United Nations success story, that story was not yet finished, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Special Committee on decolonization today as it opened its 2004 session, adopting its work programme and electing officers, including its Chairman, Robert Guba Aisi (Papua New Guinea).

Describing colonialism as an anachronism in the twenty-first century, the Secretary-General said he hoped that in the year ahead, all administering Powers would work with the Special Committee and with the people in the territories under their administration, to seek ways to further the decolonization process.  He noted that during the past year the Special Committee had consulted with some of the administering Powers on a series of actions that would trigger a process of decolonization in those territories within this decade.  The aim should be to promote their political, economic and social development and to determine the final status of each territory within the framework of the three options envisaged in resolution 1541:  free association, integration with another State, or independence.

The Secretary-General also noted with satisfaction the further progress in the work programme for Tokelau and said he was glad to see that during 2003 the annual decolonization seminar was, for the first time, held in one of the Non-Self-Governing Territories –- the Caribbean island of Anguilla.  He hoped that the Special Committee would continue in full partnership with the administering Powers of the remaining 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still on the Committee’s list, as well as with the active participation of the people of those Territories.

[For the full text of the Secretary-General’s statement, see Press Release SG/SM/9155-GA/COL/3091 of 11 February.]

In his opening statement, the newly elected Chairman, Mr. Aisi (Papua New Guinea), calling colonialism a relic of the past, said that, in order to assist the people in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Committee in recent years had begun concrete actions through an innovative work programme.  However, momentum must not be lost.

He said the informal dialogue with some administering Powers had turned into formal cooperation with very encouraging results.  Tokelau had been cooperating closely with New Zealand to work out arrangements that would guide their future relationship and determine the final status of the Territory.  The United Kingdom’s participation in last year’s seminar in Anguilla and its subsequent contacts with the Committee were signs of willingness on that country’s part for constructive engagement with the Committee.

Reminding the Committee this was the fourth year of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, he said that, unless the Committee intensified its work, it would have to call for more decades.  In order to avoid that, the Committee needed to accelerate the work and make it more dynamic and relevant.  It must make its work more proactive and seek to constructively engage the administering Powers and the people of the Territories.

The 2004 annual decolonization seminar would take place in the Pacific region in his country, he said.  Last year’s seminar had created two important precedents.  For the first time, the seminar had been held in a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  Also for the first time, the United Kingdom had participated formally and had engaged directly in a dialogue with representatives of Territories it administered.  He hoped that event represented a new trend in the work of the Special Committee.

He would count on the full cooperation and active participation of the administering Powers and looked forward to the constructive participation of the people of the Territories.  That would assist them in determining their final status within the framework of the three options:  free association, integration with another State or independence.

Also this morning, the Committee elected Luc Joseph Okio (Congo) and Orlando Requeijo Gual (Cuba) as Vice-Chairmen, and Fayssal Mekdad (Syria) as Rapporteur.  Further, it adopted its programme of work for the 2004 session, as contained in documents A/AC.109/2004/L.1 and L.2.

Several Committee members welcomed Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the expanded Special Committee.  Noting that only seven years were left in the Second Decade of Decolonization, they stressed the need for cooperation on the part of the administering Powers, as well as the need for active cooperation on the part of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in carrying out the Committee’s mandate.  They also underlined the importance of information dissemination and education of the Territories’ peoples regarding the available options to achieve self-determination.

Statements were made by the representatives of Cuba, Congo, Venezuela, Syria, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Indonesia, Bolivia, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Fiji and Grenada.  The representative of New Zealand, one of the administering Powers, spoke as well.

The Special Committee on decolonization –- formally known as the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and commonly referred to as the “Special Committee of 24” -- was established by the General Assembly in 1961.  It meets annually, hears appointed and elected representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories and petitioners, dispatches visiting missions to those Territories, and organizes seminars on their political, social, economic and educational situations.

The 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories covered by the Committee are:  American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands/Malvinas, Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, and Western Sahara.

The current members of the Special Committee are:  Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Syria, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania and Venezuela.

The Special Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.

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For information media. Not an official record.