15 May 2008


15 May 2008
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

BANDUNG, INDONESIA, 15 May -- The Pacific Regional Seminar on Decolonization continued today, with discussions on the situation affecting the Non-Self-Governing Territories of Western Sahara, Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and Tokelau.

The three-day Seminar is part of the work of the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Committee on the situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples -- better known as the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization.  The Special Committee organizes annual seminars where representatives of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and their administering Powers, non-governmental and regional organizations, and experts can hold focused and frank discussions on the issues of decolonization and a lively exchange of views with members of the Special Committee and Member States.

Fadel Kamal Mohammed, a representative of the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y del Rio del Oro (Frente POLISARIO), spoke on Western Sahara, saying that the only viable and democratic resolution for that Territory was a free, fair and transparent referendum under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union, and that the responsibility of the United Nations towards the Saharawi people must be upheld.

“The Frente POLISARIO is ready and willing to cooperate in the rigorous implementation of the resolutions of the Security Council which reaffirm the validity and relevance of the principle of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara,” Mr. Mohammed said.  He also renewed a call for the Special Committee to send a mission to Western Sahara and report on its findings, and raised concerns over the use of Western Sahara’s national resources.

A representative of Morocco, Khaddad el Moussaoui, also delivered a statement on Western Sahara, speaking about the influence of historical factors, such as the cold war, on the region.  He also mentioned Morocco’s willingness to work towards a political solution acceptable to all parties involved.  “The Kingdom of Morocco is asking other parties to take this opportunity to start a new chapter in the history of the region, showing its willingness to carry on seriously the negotiations in a constructive way,” Mr. el Moussaoui said.

Discussion following the statements touched upon the issue of natural resources, human rights and sovereignty, as well as the recent work of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum.  In an intervention made during the discussion, another representative of Morocco, Ahmed Ameziane, said:  “We need a win-win situation.”

On the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Ana Marcela Pastorino, representing Argentina, delivered a statement in which she said the Territory was a “special and particular colonial case as it involves a sovereignty dispute”.

Delving into historical factors affecting the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), she said that, ever since Argentina had been ousted from the islands by force in 1833, it had consistently registered its protests over that action.  Argentina was committed to work towards a peaceful resolution of the issue.  “The Argentine Government has reiterated at every available opportunity its willingness to negotiate as requested by the international community,” she said.

Alberto Virella, a representative of Spain, reiterated the Spanish Government’s support for the Special Committee’s efforts during the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, which ends in 2010.  He also addressed the question of Gibraltar, where, given the existence of a sovereignty dispute, the principle of self-determination did not apply.

He noted that a definitive solution could be reached only through bilateral negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom, taking into account the interests and aspirations of the people of Gibraltar.  Constitutional reforms carried out by Gibraltar, which gave a degree of self-government to the Territory, should not be construed as having any impact on Gibraltar’s status and Spain would “oppose any initiative to see Gibraltar removed from the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories on the basis of its constitutional reform and its implementation”.

Hopefully, recent statements by the United Kingdom’s Minister for European Affairs regarding that country’s determination to cooperate in resolving Gibraltar’s status would lead to a change of attitude regarding sovereignty negotiations.

An observer from Gibraltar, Joseph Bossano, said that any process to resolve the Territory’s status which involved negotiation over sovereignty was unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians.  “The Spanish dimension is one which we discard, having no relevance or legitimacy in our decolonization,” he said, adding that the United Kingdom should actively involve the Special Committee in a constructive programme of work for each of its 10 territories, including Gibraltar, as required by the General Assembly’s resolutions.

On the issue of Tokelau’s status as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, the Special Committee heard statements from representatives of both the remote Pacific Territory and its administering Power, New Zealand, as well as an independent expert with extensive experience in the constitutional aspects of Tokelau’s efforts at self-governance.

In a statement delivered on his behalf, Ulu Faipule Pio Tuia, the tituar head of Tokelau for 2008, spoke about some of the sentiments associated with the Territory’s two referenda, in 2006 and 2007, on whether Tokelau should choose self-government in free association with New Zealand or retain its dependency status.

The Ulu said that, while work on self-determination would continue, it would be several years before another referendum on self-government was considered again by the General Fono.  Following discussions with New Zealand earlier this year, the General Fono had decided to focus on strengthening local capacity on the atolls.  That included infrastructure development, transportation systems and strengthening Tokelau’s pillars of government.  The Territory would continue to look to the Special Committee for guidance with regard to the implementation of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.

David Payton, New Zealand’s administrator of Tokelau, in a statement delivered on his behalf, spoke of his country’s role in the Territory’s self-determination efforts and described the preparation of the electorate as exemplary.  No electorate had ever been more carefully prepared to make an informed decision than the people of Tokelau.  “It is also very important to record here that this preparatory process was one entirely determined by Tokelau,” Mr. Payton said.  “ New Zealand was pleased to support this process, but throughout, it remained a Tokelau-led process.”

He noted that, while Tokelau’s focus in the coming years would be on meeting its core needs, New Zealand’s commitment to Tokelau was centred not only on the right of its people to decide their future path and direction, but also on ensuring that, whatever Tokelau’s status, the needs of its people were met.

Tony Angelo, an independent expert from New Zealand’s Victoria University in Wellington, who provided constitutional and legal advice for Tokelau, provided the Special Committee with his reflections on the Territory’s recent experiences in the development of self-government and the self-determination referenda.

He noted that some particularities of Tokelau’s situation may not apply to other Non-Self-Governing Territories, such as the fact that, although Tokelau had had a colonial situation of one sort or another for 150 years, there had been no physical presence of a colonizer there, the consequence of which were that the administering Power was seen either as a protective influence, or a source of material improvement, or both.

Language and culture issues also played a role, as concepts such as the separation of Powers and the rule of law were “all alien concepts”, he said.  The lack of advocates for the options on the referenda and erroneous media coverage of those options were also factors that needed to be considered.  “For any situation like that of Tokelau, these matters of publicity and the maintenance of the flow of accurate information are potentially critical,” Mr. Angelo said.

The international community still had a role to play in the aspirations of the people of Tokelau, he continued.  While some aspects of Tokelau’s experience may not assist all Non-Self-Governing Territories, it could serve as a template for some or a starting point for discussions on how to formulate a Territory-specific proposal for self-determination.

Mr. Angelo’s recommendations included one calling for the United Nations and the administering Powers to support, to the greatest extent possible, the autochthonous development of self-government in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Administering Powers should be attentive to and strive to accommodate the priorities of self-government as perceived by the Territory involved.

On Friday, the Special Committee will present a report on the Seminar’s deliberations containing conclusions and recommendations.  These will be considered by the Special Committee at its forthcoming substantive session in June, before being submitted to the General Assembly.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.