NADI, FIJI, 21 May — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged participants in the Pacific Regional Seminar to take into consideration recent developments in the region, such as the March 2014 visiting mission of the Special Committee on Decolonization to New Caledonia and other initiatives that made that body more visible and active.
“I trust that political will, applied on a case-by-case basis, can evolve on all sides to make progress on the decolonization of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories still under the purview of the Special Committee,” he said in a message to the Seminar. “Good intentions will have to be translated into credible action to make the Third International Decade a success.”
Xavier Lasso Mendoza (Ecuador), Chairman of the Special Committee, extended his gratitude to the Government and people of Fiji for their warm traditional opening ceremony and for hosting the Seminar for a record fourth time.
The three-day Seminar, taking place in Nadi, Fiji, from 21 to 23 May, under the theme “Accelerating Action”, provides an opportunity for representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to share their progress and concerns with the Special Committee. Administering Powers, experts and non-governmental organizations are also expected to convey their views on the decolonization process. Held in the context of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the Seminar offers an opportunity to reflect on the annual Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, beginning on 25 May.
FRANK BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, opened the Seminar and welcomed the participants, recalling that “many different and unique relationships of what we would call colonialism exist, and our task is to sort them out and find solutions that are both principal led and programmatic”. In order to do that, “we must listen to the people” and respect and support their decision and right to negotiate as equals.
He pointed out that the decolonization process involved a much broader collection of issues than those relating specifically to self-determination, emphasizing that issues like education, social structures, infrastructure and political legacies “must be discussed as part of any decision on self-determination, so that a country is equipped not just to take control of its political destiny, but its future development across a broad front”.
XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador), Chairman of the Special Committee, highlighted the Secretary-General’s description of that body’s “innovative measures which make the [Special Committee] more visible and, more importantly, more active”. He outlined the General Assembly’s practice for delisting Non-Self-Governing Territories, including the necessary emphasis on the manner in which the right to self-determination was obtained and freely exercised, the case-by-case approach, the delisting process and the role of visiting missions. The relevant resolutions, legal opinions and practice of the General Assembly were the Special Committee’s conceptual and legal arsenal.
FRED SARUFA (Papua New Guinea) acknowledged that while the administering Powers had made “positive overtures and engagements”, further improvement of direct dialogue should be inclusive and broad-based, and involve all stakeholders on a case-by-case basis.
GARY J. JUSUF (Indonesia) recognized the mutual understanding and consent between the Special Committee and the administering Powers, noting that the visiting mission to New Caledonia had highlighted the significance of good faith and cooperation among all parties in the decolonization process.
DIANGUINA DIT YAYA DOUCOURE (Mali) said that all Seminar participants should play their role in accelerating decolonization efforts, recognizing the importance of dialogue and cooperation among various stakeholders on a case-by-case basis.
ALEXANDER VOLGAREV (Russian Federation) said that size, geographical isolation and lack of resources should not affect the right to self-determination.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba) said the Special Committee’s task remained inconclusive, while recognizing its recent initiatives, adding that his country was an active stakeholder and partner in the decolonization process.
AMADU KOROMA (Sierra Leone) stressed the importance of respecting the aims and aspirations of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories on a case-by-case basis. It was necessary to bridge the gap between the Special Committee and the administering Powers. Regarding New Caledonia, he encouraged all stakeholders to maintain peace and respect the Noumea Accord.
Accelerating Action in Pacific Non-Self-Governing Territories
KURESA NASAU, Ulu of Tokelau, recalled that after the 2007 and 2008 referendums had failed to reach the vote that would achieve self-determination, Tokelau and New Zealand, as constitutional partners, had agreed to defer the question until such time as the Territory’s people were ready. The question of decolonization could not be separate from discussions about improving the quality of life and the sustainability of the small populations of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. New Zealand was Tokelau’s first call in the pursuit of its development aspirations and in addressing the challenges of isolation, vulnerability and sustainability, he said.
NICOLA NGAWATI (New Zealand) described the administering Power’s close relationship with the Tokelau leadership as “90 years strong” saying that their partnership projects included projects in the transport, education and renewable energy sectors. New Zealand continued to encourage Tokelau to engage internationally in a meaningful manner, while acknowledging the constitutional constraints of its status as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
EDWARD AVAREZ, representative of Guam, said the Territory’s political relationship with its administering Power must be modernized, and discussed the public education efforts of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, including new territorial funding prospects which would enable the Commission to launch a variety of activities, such as websites, television programmes and conferences. He set forth a number of recommendations to accelerate the decolonization agenda.
SAVALI TALAVOU ALE, representative of American Samoa, emphasized that “at no point in time has the United States acted contrary to the expressed wishes of the people of American Samoa”. Their current legal status had caused the Territory to be impacted by the actions of the United States Congress in ways not contemplated due to its size, location, geography and economic circumstance. Now was the time “to take the next step of entertaining serious discussion about what our future political status should look like”, a process that would commence in 2015, he said.
GILLES MONTAGNIER (France) reiterated his Government’s will to cooperate with the Special Committee on New Caledonia, saying that France would continue to build constructively upon its work. He welcomed the visiting mission to New Caledonia and the profound discussions on matters including political life, economic development and electoral issues.
MATHIAS CHAUCHAT, expert from New Caledonia, presented a paper on the transparency of electoral rolls during provincial elections held in New Caledonia on 1 May 2014. He emphasized that France was not capable of ensuring the decolonization process in New Caledonia, and elections in the south would be contested due to anomalies relating to the restricted electoral roll.
ANNE GRAS, expert from New Caledonia, said the establishment of electoral rolls was important for the consultation on accession to full sovereignty. Many questions must be addressed to avoid repetition of past problems, and a working group had been established for that purpose. She suggested that a major information campaign was needed about who was eligible and how to enrol.
MICHAEL FORREST, expert from New Caledonia representing the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), highlighted the experiences of that Territory’s indigenous Kanak people, in the decolonization process, including their link to the land, impacted by recent infrastructure development. The Special Committee had been attentive to the decolonization process and had enabled the United Nations to observe the implementation of the Nouméa Accord.
The first day of the Pacific Regional Seminar generated significant discussion about the Special Committee’s visiting mission to New Caledonia, decolonization in the Pacific and transparency of electoral rolls. Seminar participants heard follow-up statements by speakers representing France, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cuba and Fiji. They also heard from experts and observers whose comments and responses will inform the report to be drafted during the Seminar.