Caribbean Regional Seminar Wraps Up Meeting amid Renewed Vigour to Fulfil Aim of United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization

3 June 2011

Caribbean Regional Seminar Wraps Up Meeting amid Renewed Vigour to Fulfil Aim of United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization

3 June 2011
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Caribbean Regional Seminar Wraps Up Meeting amid Renewed Vigour to Fulfil Aim

of United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES, 2 June — The Caribbean regional seminar on decolonization had been a “lively” forum for sharing a range of views on the situations in the 16 Non-Self Governing Territories around the world, and the Special Committee on Decolonization must now undertake a self-analysis to better imagine its role in carrying out its work in the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020), Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization Francisco Carrión-Mena said today as he concluded the three-day meeting.

It was first and foremost, said Mr. Carrión-Mena (Ecuador), important to focus on the real needs of the Territories.  “We need less rhetoric,” he said, adding that it would be useful for him to visit those areas, as had been suggested, and to involve more United Nations agencies in the Special Committee’s work to ensure adoption of best practices.  Participants at the seminar had benefited from hearing about such situations as those in Puerto Rico, he said, calling “interesting and innovative” proposals to hold a series of informal brainstorming sessions with interested delegations later this year in New York.

Throughout today’s half-day meeting, participants offered their thoughts on elements to include in an action plan to implement the Third International Decade, with many stressing that people in Non-Self-Governing Territories must be informed about their options for determining their political status and the consequences of those choices.  Indeed, the Third Decade must be guided by a return to the principles embodied in General Assembly resolution 1514 (1960), which had brought to life the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and which the Special Committee was tasked with monitoring.

In carrying out that work, said the representativeof Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, echoing the call of several speakers, the Special Committee must be guided by the will of the people in the Territories.  Its role was not as an observer, but rather as an advocate — even an activist — for the fulfilment of their wishes, as they had been on the short end of the asymmetries of population and influence, and often victims of the “naked hostility” shown by the administering Powers.  “We have to acknowledge this,” he urged.

Moreover, he deemed it unacceptable that the Special Committee had no empirical, up-to-date way to assess their will.  “We’re guessing,” he said, urging that work begin to rectify that situation.  The Special Committee must accept that the tasks of assessment, education, advocacy and participation in its work would cost money.  That work had been organized around a principle, not finances, and it must find ways to either increase funding or better use resources to achieve its stated goals.

Other speakers urged the Special Committee to continue providing opportunities to the Territories, on a case-by-case basis, to exercise their right to self-determination.  The action plan for the Third Decade, some said, should contain a clear timeline of achievable indicators for the full implementation of the Declaration.  Programmes should be established to help Territories in their political maturity, administrative capacity and economic sustainability, as the “inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence”. 

Still others pressed the Special Committee to examine the characteristics of independent States and compare them with the stages of advancement in the Territories.  Its policy should be to provide input before referendums were undertaken and then monitor how those events were carried out.  In all such work, a gender perspective must be considered, one speaker suggested, to enhance women’s participation in human rights dialogue, peace processes and good governance.

As for specific cases, calls were made for the Special Committee to “force its way” into discussions on Western Sahara.  It could not cede that issue to the Security Council, one speaker said, as peace and security in that area was rooted in a matter that sat squarely before its members:  colonial status.  The Committee also must confront the issue of States with disputed sovereignty.  It was charged with addressing decolonization, and not determination of colonial ownership.

On the situation in Turks and Caicos, the Special Committee was called on to take note of statements issued by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and to express a desire to monitor that situation.  On the spectrum of decolonization, Turks and Caicos had taken a step backwards, some said, considering that an issue on which the Special Committee should indicate its concern.  Certain reforms started by that Territory before its Constitution was suspended, another speaker pointed out, had not been acknowledged by the administering Power.

As for Tokelau, speakers said lessons had been learned from past referendums, which could be transferred to other cases.  The Special Committee was urged to publicize the results of that process.

“Equity is essential for the colonization process to move forward,” said Timor-Leste’s delegate, “and getting the perspectives from Non-Self-Governing Territories will enrich the discourse”.

Other Committee members, including from Indonesia, Russian Federation and Sierra Leone, also made statements.

The representatives of Morocco and Argentina also spoke.

Several participants, including American Samoa and Frente Polisario, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations and experts, provided concluding comments.

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