United Nations Should Eradicate Colonialism by 2020, Urges Secretary-General in Message to Caribbean Regional Decolonization Seminar

GA/COL/3277
19 May 2015
Caribbean Regional Seminar, AM & PM Meetings

United Nations Should Eradicate Colonialism by 2020, Urges Secretary-General in Message to Caribbean Regional Decolonization Seminar

Despite Strides, “Noble Goal” of Universal Self-Determination Not Yet Reached

MANAGUA, 19 May — Opening the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled that, since the birth of the United Nations 70 years ago, more than 80 nations once under colonial rule, with some 750 million inhabitants, were now sovereign Member States.

Urging participants to build on that success towards fully eradicating colonialism by 2020, he said that in celebrating the Organization’s milestone, “we also mark 70 years in advancing the decolonization agenda”.  In a message delivered by Josiane Ambiehl, Chief of the Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, he said the Seminar’s theme, “The Third International Decade: The United Nations at 70 and the decolonization agenda: The role of the Special Committee”, reflected the spirit of stocktaking.

In 1946, there were 72 Territories on the Organization’s list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, he said, noting that, today, only 17 such Territories remained.  Much had been achieved, but the goal of eradicating colonialism had not yet been reached.  The international community had an obligation to ensure that a full measure of self-government was achieved in the remaining Territories.  In that connection, he urged all to work towards fulfilment of that “noble goal” before the end of the Third International Decade of decolonization in 2020.

Xavier Lasso Mendoza (Ecuador), Chair of the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, known as the Special Committee, said the Seminar provided a good opportunity to take stock of how the agenda had evolved.  “I believe that such stocktaking will better position us to look forward on how to advance that agenda, on a case-by-case basis,” he said, noting that the session was the fifth held in the context of the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Decolonization (2011-2020).

The Seminar was also a chance to mark the annual Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories declared by the General Assembly, he said.  That observance strengthened the United Nations commitment to strike down colonialism in all its aspects and take forward that process with a results-oriented vision.  “We will not rest until all those deprived of their wholesome sovereignty and integrity as a people are liberated,” he stressed.

Miguel d’Escoto (Nicaragua), Adviser to the President on Foreign Policy and former President of the General Assembly at its sixty-third session, said everyone spoke of reform of the Organization; however, he noted a lack of recent progress on decolonization and urged that efforts be stepped up in that regard.  He nonetheless applauded the work being done by the Special Committee, commending it for being “the very best that can be found within the United Nations”, despite the stalemate.

The problem of colonialism had been made more complicated by aggression, which was carried out by the United States with complete impunity.  The work being done by the Special Committee was essential to keeping alive the United Nations, which was “dying” at the hands of one Member State that manipulated it for its own political purposes.  “We must focus on working to unmask that empire,” he stressed.

“What should we do about Members that inflict wars of aggression on other Member States?” he asked, noting that the United States perpetrated the most “heinous” of crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, among other States.  He noted that the United States had been ordered to pay damages to Nicaragua amounting to some $60 billion including compounded interest, but that it had not done so.

Throughout the day, experts and representatives expressed support for the work of the United Nations decolonization machinery — namely the Special Committee — and stressed that the time was ripe to take that work further.  It was shameful, some said, that 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained.  Meanwhile, others said that even more territories and peoples around the world suffered under occupation and colonization but were not listed as such by the United Nations.

A long road remained to eradicate the “scourge”, said other delegates, noting that the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination still faced major obstacles in many places.  The Committee was thus urged to take “daring” efforts to end colonization once and for all.

Still others stressed that the United Nations remained the last refuge of hope for peoples under the yolk of colonialism.  Today’s meeting, many said, was of particular importance, as it reflected the Special Committee’s continuing commitment to the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories and offered a chance to take stock of progress made.  In its efforts towards the “full and final liquidation of colonialism” — which was long overdue — the Special Committee had “no right to fail”.

In other business today, the Seminar adopted, by consensus, its provisional programme of work (document PRS/2015/CRP.2).  The Chair also appointed the representatives of Nicaragua and the Russian Federation to serve as Vice-Chairs of the Seminar and the representative of Chile to serve as Rapporteur.

The conclusions and recommendations of the members of the Special Committee who participated in the Seminar would subsequently be finalized and presented to the Special Committee at its resumed session in June.

The Seminar will reconvene on Wednesday, 20 May, to continue its work.

Discussion

Opening a discussion on the theme “Third International Decade — the United Nations at 70 and the decolonization agenda: The role of the Special Committee and other stakeholders”, XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador) said that the Seminar was being held at the halfway point of the International Decade and in the context of the Organization’s seventieth anniversary.  Quoting the Secretary-General, he said that “2015 isn’t just any year; it’s an opportunity to change the course of history”.  The full cooperation of States and administering Powers was vital to the Special Committee’s work.  Indeed, colonialism was an anachronism that was not in line with present day realities.

The commitment of the administering Powers made them the bearers of a set of rights and obligations, as set forth in various resolutions of the Organization.  He reiterated his call for them to comply without any double standards with the mandates contained in the resolutions of the Special Committee and General Assembly.  He called for frank, respectful dialogue to give concrete substance to the measures adopted by the General Assembly in line with the International Decades.  A successful visit to New Caledonia in 2014 showed that the Special Committee should continue its practice of visiting territories and considering them on a case-by-case basis.  Funds were necessary to successfully implement the mandates of the General Assembly in that regard, he said.

Highlighting the commitment of the representative of Saint Helena and other delegations that had travelled far to arrive in Nicaragua, he went on to say that the Special Committee was following political, economic and social developments in Saint Helena.  In 2014, American Samoa, Guam, French Polynesia, Tokelau and other Territories had held elections.  In Turks and Caicos, the Constitutional Review Committee had submitted its final report in 2014, which contained a number of recommendations.  That body’s Chair was present at the Seminar to share his views.  The Special Committee was also keeping a close eye on developments in New Caledonia, including a self-determination referendum to be held prior to 2018.

In November 2014, he noted, American Samoa had renewed its Chamber of Representatives, electing for the first time a woman to the United States House of Representatives.  The General Assembly had taken note of the statement of the representative of that Territory concerning the anachronistic nature of the colonialism, urging that it be corrected.  With regard to other Territories, the Assembly and the Committee had set out a road mad and would keep working to achieve the complete, swift eradication of colonialism.  The removal of a Territory from the “list” was done on the basis of a case-by-case analysis, he pointed out.

SERGEI CHERNIAVSKY, expert, said that each anniversary of the United Nations was an opportunity to take stock of its achievements and disappointments.  Similarly, it was time to reassess the endeavours of the Special Committee and see what was working and what needed to be re-evaluated.  The international situation had deteriorated, he said, pointing to a revival of talk of another cold war between the Russian Federation and major Western Powers.  Indeed, the negative consequences of so-called “colour revolutions” in North Africa and other hot-spot insurgencies elsewhere had contributed to the chaos in international relations, which seriously impeded the peacemaking efforts of the United Nations.

Unfortunately, the decolonization process was the first victim of such a course of events, he went on.  The attention of the United Nations Member States was further diverted from the social and economic agenda towards “firefighting and extinguishing” armed conflicts.  Another growing danger in global affairs with a direct bearing on decolonization was the resurgence of the archetypal colonial mentality on the part of the major Western Powers, which also happened to be the administering Powers of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The roots of such a mentality lay in their claims to some other people’s natural resources, which had driven colonial policies in the past.

Turning to the Special Committee’s mandates, he recalled that General Assembly resolution 69/107 of 5 December 2014 had called for, among other things, the Special Committee to develop and finalize, as soon as possible and in cooperation with the administering Power and the Territory in question, a constructive programme of work on a case-by-case basis to facilitate the implementation of the Special Committee’s mandate and the relevant resolutions on decolonization, including on specific Territories.

He said that limits to the mandate included the inability to inscribe new territories on the United Nations list, to directly conduct educational campaigns in the Territories, and to directly assist Non-Self-Governing Territories in the development of their constitutional order, in cooperation with other United Nations specialized agencies and funds, primarily the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its inclusive and effective democratic governance scheme.

Noting the need to start the “case-by-case programme” from scratch, Mr. Cherniavsky said that “we have to admit that case-by-case programme is non-existent”.  It was an idea awaiting implementation, he said, adding, “It is high time to start working in this direction.”  With that, he proposed the establishment of working groups within the Special Committee for that purpose.

In the ensuing discussion, a number of delegations and experts raised questions about the “case-by-case programme” and the proposal to establish working groups to implement it.  They also made general comments about specific territories and discussed, in particular, the issue of visits by the Special Committee to them.

For example, the representative of Nicaragua said that because of technical reasons within the United Nations, Puerto Rico had not been mentioned in the list of 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The representative of Cuba said that while progress had been made in eliminating the scourge of colonialism, much remained to be done.  On the limitations faced by the Special Committee, he noted that it had been asked to establish and conclude as quickly as possible a constructive “case-by-case programme”.  Member States, he added, should take all necessary measures to acquire support for those resolutions.  He asked Mr. Cherniavsky what elements could be included in the programme of work in line with the General Assembly’s texts.

Responding, Mr. CHERNIAVSKY said that there had been a formal decision to remove Puerto Rico from the list; however, the Committee remained seized of that matter.  It had adopted a resolution on the issue of Puerto Rico, but efforts to bring it to the level of the General Assembly had not been successful.  The Puerto Rican people themselves could take action to advance the issue.  Responding to the representative of Cuba, he said that the “case-by-case programme” envisaged several steps that should be taken before a Territory was delisted, including popular consultations in the Territory and the assistance of the international community.

Taking the floor, the representative of Ecuador agreed that a case-by-case analysis needed to be done, with each Territory’s history and experience considered.  There was an unfortunate lack of political will to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions on decolonization.  The idea of working groups was an interesting one, but any such groups should be limited in their membership.

The representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) said that it was 40 years to the month that the Special Committee had last visited Western Sahara.  He asked Mr. Cherniavsky for more information about the case-by-case programme and when it might reach Western Sahara.

WILMA REVERON-COLLAZO, member of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico, said that while it was true that Puerto Rico had been removed from the list in 1953, the General Assembly had reserved the right to revisit the issue of the people of Puerto Rico.  The term “administering Power” was “deceitful” and euphemistic language, which had been maintained over the years.  One of the Special Committee’s major shortcomings was that it continued to work under this false language.  The list of Non-Self-Governing Territories was not important; a Territory’s actual status was.  “We’re invisible people” even though 33 resolutions had been adopted regarding Puerto Rico, she said, adding that people under colonialism should have control over their own decisions, economy and resources.

Responding, Mr. CHERNIAVSKY said that visiting missions were done at the invitation of the territorial Government or the administering Power, and all territories deserved them.  As far as Western Sahara was concerned, the Special Committee might observe a referendum in that Territory when it happened.

The representative of Morocco, in response to the statement by Frente POLISARIO’s representative, said that the problem of Western Sahara was totally different from that of other Territories.  There was no difference between the Western Saharans and Moroccans, as they shared the same language, culture and religion.  Moreover, there had been no mention of the Saharawi people prior to the 1970s, and separatism had not been created by the Saharans themselves.  The situation was “a mirage, a fabrication”.  Morocco had been a victim of Spanish colonialism, he added.

Algeria’s delegate then took the floor to say that the United Nations remained the last refuge of hope for peoples living under the yoke of colonialism.  Today’s meeting was of particular importance, as it reflected the Special Committee’s continuing commitment to those peoples and offered a chance to take stock of progress.  At the midpoint of the Third Decade, “a long road still has to be covered to eradicate this scourge.”  The inalienable right of peoples to self-determination still faced major obstacles.  The Committee must therefore take “daring” efforts through greater mobilization of world opinion to end colonization, and it must organize visits.  It must also consider ways and means of ensuring colonial Powers’ adherence to the decolonization of their Territories.

The representative of Venezuela said that his country deeply understood the issue of colonialism.  Decolonization in Latin America had been achieved by fighting one of the most powerful empires of all time, and at a great loss of life.  He therefore called for multilateralism and political negotiation to reach a peaceful solution to the “shame” of colonialism.  The political will of all parties was needed, but differentiated responsibilities must be adhered to.  He asked Mr. Cherniavsky what the Special Committee could consider doing to ensure that the administering Powers complied with United Nations mandates.

Responding to those comments, Mr. CHERNIAVSKY said that missions were undertaken when they were politically possible.  The Special Committee often lacked a consensus on a planned visit to a certain Territory.

Also speaking during that discussion were the representatives of Iran, Russian Federation, Syria, China, Indonesia and Ethiopia.  An expert on New Caledonia made a brief statement.

Review by Non-Self-Governing Territories in Caribbean Region

Launching a discussion focused on the Caribbean Region, CONRAD HOWELL, representative of Turks and Caicos, made a presentation.  Briefly describing the history of Turks and Caicos, which had been governed by Jamaica, Bahamas and the United Kingdom, he said that “colonialism is alive and growing” in that case.  The Territory sought to uphold its responsibilities as per the administering Power, while exercising its democratic right to elect a government.  It was governed by a constitution that was “thrust” upon the Territory, and while the executive, legislative and judiciary branches were supposed to be separate but equal, they had formed a partnership that had “made Lady Liberty lose her blindfold”, he said.

Ultimately, colonialism was the subjugation of one people by another, he said.  Turks and Caicos was working to rid the United Kingdom of its responsibilities as an administering Power.  Currently, the United Kingdom was said to be ready in 24 months to take on independence.  However, some of the Territory’s institutions had been sacrificed at the altar of reform, and their removal had done more harm than good.  “I believe in the right of people to self-determination.  Let’s do more than talk.  Let’s see the work through,” he said.

The representative of Iran said Mr. Howell’s remarks had sounded like a petition made to the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).  He sought more information on the status of the Territory.

Mr. HOWELL responded that economic activity alone without the proper political solutions did more harm than good.  The Territory should benefit from the Special Committee’s mandate.

PETER CLEGG, expert, asked Mr. Howell about the quality of governance in Turks and Caicos and whether it would make the same mistakes as it had in previous years. 

Responding, Mr. HOWELL said that the United Kingdom needed to admit that, as the administering Power, it was equally responsible for the downfalls of government in Turks and Caicos.  He was fully confident in the House of Assembly.

Mr. LASSO MENDOZA then asked Mr. Howell what, specifically, he felt the Special Committee should do to help Turks and Caicos.  Mr. HOWELL said there had to be a retooling of government in Turks and Caicos and an internal system of checks and balances put in place.  A neutral voice was needed to present an option to follow.

The representative of Argentina asked about the proposal of a visiting mission to Turks and Caicos.  He wished to know if there was a discussion with the United Kingdom to see if it was open to such a mission.  Mr. HOWELL responded that his father, who had been killed in an airplane crash, had wished to see an independent Turks and Caicos.  Now he himself wondered if he would ever see that.

The representative of Cuba asked about the progress on constitutional reform in that Territory.  Mr. HOWELL said that an expert on that process was present at the Seminar and would brief the meeting.  In setting targets for indirect rule, an agenda had been thrust upon Turks and Caicos.  However, he said he hoped that “we can really sit down and really have dialogue” about the way forward.  There was nothing that assured him that the hoped-for reform was coming.

Mr. CHERNIAVSKY said that there could be two types of missions to determine whether the Territory was ready for delisting: one to determine the level of self-government, which would then go to the General Assembly with a proposal; or a mission of observation, in the case of a referendum, for instance.  The latter could be undertaken only with the agreement of both the administering Power and the Territorial Government.  The Special Committee itself could not be an arbiter or a “go-to administering Power”; it could only provide information or keep situations under review.  There was a misconception on the part of Territories that the Special Committee could punish administering Powers for their behaviour.

In response, Mr. HOWELL said that he did not expect the international community to “beat the United Kingdom on the head”.  It only wished to hold it to account.

ALEJANDRO BETTS, expert, said that what struck him about the present conversation was the idea of impunity of the administering Powers.  A solution did not come to pass because of the lack of political will of the Territorial Power.  He asked Mr. Howell and the Chairman if the Special Committee could adopt a resolution for the case of Turks and Caicos.

Mr. HOWELL said he still sought some “semblance of a solution” from a neutral party.  Mr. LASSO MENDOZA said that there was indeed an omnibus resolution that covered all the Non-Self-Governing Territories. Perhaps the time had come to work outside that resolution and to split it up case-by-case.  That issue had not yet come up for consideration, but the concern was making itself felt within the Committee.

Mr. CHERNIAVSKY said that formerly there had been resolutions for all the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  However, in the 1990s, they were merged into one omnibus text.  It was in the hands of the Committee to change the format once again.  In his opinion, an exception could be made in the case of Turks and Caicos.

Taking the floor again, the representative of Iran said that a resolution was not a very good solution.  In the case of Palestine, for example, many resolutions had been passed calling for a separate Palestinian State, but the Israeli occupation continued.  The administering Power should be cooperative enough to work with the United Nations on the issue of the Non-Self-Governing Territory.

Argentina’s delegate said that there was a sense of frustration that despite the precise diagnosis of a situation in which the United Nations had called for self-determination, it all depended upon the administering Power.  What happened when the administering Power did not cooperate with the Special Committee?  The double standards of administering Powers should be avoided.

JOSE COUSIŇO (Chile), Special Committee Rapporteur, speaking in his national capacity, said that the Committee had had very little to do with the delisting of Timor-Leste and the re-inscription of French Polynesia.  Nevertheless, the Chair had pushed for more productive work and had introduced mechanisms that improved the work of the Special Committee.  “We’re not on the sidelines,” he said in that respect.  There were close links between morality and politics in the Special Committee, he went on, saying that each Non-Self-Governing Territory deserved dignity.  That could be reflected in a specific resolution for each Territory instead of an omnibus resolution.  Each case should be treated on its own merit.

Mr. HOWELL thanked participants for the discussion and said that his Territory would be happy to see a specific resolution on its situation.

Taking the floor, Ms. REVERON-COLLAZO asked if there could truly be an exercise of self-determination if a Territory had to have its constitution approved by a foreign country.  Mr. HOWELL agreed.

In that connection, Mr. CHERNIAVSKY said that the United Nations recognized certain responsibilities of the administering Powers in its Charter, adding, “We have to live with this until the Charter is revised.”

Review by Non-Self-Governing Territories in Pacific Region

Opening that discussion, TALAUEGA ELEASALO ALE, representative from American Samoa, said that much of what was encouraged under Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter had already happened with respect to the beneficial relationship between American Samoa and the United States.  However, the people of his Territory felt that the relationship lacked the appropriate vestiges of self-determination and was not sustainable.  There were several economic and political shortcomings associated with the situation.  American Samoa continued to get its authority from the President of the United States and the Department of the Interior.  Its Constitution needed to be approved by the United States Government.  “We are truly a form of government that is a relic of colonialism,” he said.

What was most important for the people of American Samoa was the preservation of its culture and the ability to govern itself, he said.  It did not have appropriate representation in the United States Government and was exposed to decisions made by judges and other lawmakers far from the island.  It was further exposed to coercive taxes, including those which prohibited the ability of American Samoa to use its own resources to better the Territory.  Until concrete protections were assured, the fact that it lived under the auspices of the United States would make it vulnerable.  The United States entered into free trade agreements with many countries, which directly affected American Samoa; he hoped his Territory would soon have a voice in determining the course of its future.

At the same time, he said, American Samoa’s long relationship with the United States had been mostly beneficial.  A constitutional amendment had been proposed to give American Samoa legislative veto power to override the Governor, but the measure had been defeated.  However, that discussion had opened a vital debate on the way forward for American Samoa.  It could continue such options as maintaining the status quo, attaining commonwealth status, free association with the United States or full independence.  All of which were possible, but not all were viable.  For now, the best option was to remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  He concluded by issuing an invitation to the Special Committee to visit his Territory.

EDWARD ALVAREZ, representative from Guam, said that “these are exciting times for decolonization in Guam.”  There was a significant budget for education on decolonization, with several proposals on the table, including public programming to air on television stations focused on three themes:  the decolonization process; the status options and their effects on labour, trade and commerce on Guam; and finally, “who we are”.

He respectfully reminded the Special Committee to follow through with the resolutions it had passed throughout the years.  He reiterated a number of relevant recommendations: that the United Nations Department of Political Affairs provide more information about the status options; that the General Assembly endorse a work programme for the decolonization of each Territory; that periodic analysis be conducted in each territory; and finally, that the Special Committee urgently implement the decisions of the General Assembly.

JEAN-LOUIS D’ANGLEBERMES, representative from New Caledonia, said that in 1988, two men had set New Caledonia on the path towards independence and peace.  For the first time since, there had been an “unprecedented crisis” in the Territory at the end of last year.  Since 1 April, a Government had been established with a President and Vice-President.  That Government was now ready to deal with the major issues before it.  Some concerned Caledonian citizenship; local jobs protection; economic and social rebalancing; and jurisdiction and the administration of local provinces, among others.  In the area of mining, a true country strategy must be built, with a fair price assigned to the raw materials.

Over the past decade, New Caledonia had seen unprecedented development due to private investment, he said.  Exports should be encouraged, tourism supported, and food sovereignty improved.  Energy self-sufficiency also must be ensured by redoubling sustainable energy in the next 15 years.  Finally, the local processing industry must be supported and tax incentives put in place.  Another challenge to which New Caledonia should respond was to create an ambitious new policy of openness in the area of bilateral cooperation, and further links should be established with neighbours in Oceania.  New Caledonia was a full member of several regional organizations, he said, adding that a consultation would take place before 2018 on the exit from the Noumea Agreement.

Following those presentations, a discussion ensued during which countries thanked the experts for the status updates and expressed their opinions on the decolonization efforts in American Samoa, Guam and New Caledonia.

The representative of Papua New Guinea called New Caledonia’s independence a “priority issue” and said that a number of concerns existed.  The road to referendum was still sensitive.  It was important to ensure that the electoral process was fair, just and open.  It was not for the United Nations or anyone else to decide the Territory’s future.  On Guam and American Samoa, he asked how the Special Committee could help the Territories achieve what they wanted when the administering Powers were reluctant to engage, or even attend, the Seminar.

The representative of France said that “dialogue is better than no dialogue”, which was why he was present today.  France had always cooperated fully on the issue of New Caledonia.  In January, the country had submitted updates on New Caledonia and it had assisted with the Special Committee mission to New Caledonia and to Paris last year.  France had also responded in writing to questions from the Special Committee following those missions.  It was important that the referendum process continue in line with the Noumea Agreement, he said.

Indonesia’s delegate asked for more information from Guam and American Samoa on timelines or road maps foreseen for independence.  In the case of New Caledonia, she wondered what the Special Committee could offer to help expedite the process.

Responding, Mr. ALVAREZ responded that a plebiscite vote had to be held during a general election year.  A second problem was that there was ambiguity on the law regarding the Decolonization Registry, with which all native residents of Guam had to register.

Also responding, Mr. ALE said that it would likely take some time before American Samoa became self-governing.  It was in an unusual situation because of its long relationship with the United States, which had created a sense of “comfort” among many residents, he added.

Mr. D’ANGLEBERMES said that he could only provide the views of the Collegial Coalition Government.

MICKAEL FORREST, representative of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) of New Caledonia, said that the pro-French and independence parties had found points of dialogue to help the Territory out of its crisis.  Still, many reforms were needed.  In March 2014, he noted, a coalition Government had been formed.

Taking the floor again, the delegate of Papua New Guinea said that there appeared to be no tracking system for all of the commitments made in the area of decolonization.  He proposed a “user-friendly” tracking system for that purpose.  Mr. ALVAREZ agreed.

Meanwhile, Mr. D’ANGLEBERMES said that the referendum in New Caledonia should be based on a clear and undisputable process.  Mr. FORREST agreed.

Review of Caribbean Region

Offering an expert perspective, Mr. CLEGG said that problems in Caribbean Governments remained.  There was a lack of confidence on the part of the United Kingdom regarding such governance, based largely on the situation in Turks and Caicos over recent years.  There were also concerns over immigration.  In terms of economic relations, there had been an emphasis on improving the self-sufficiency of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  One example was the building of an airport in Saint Helena.  Those initiatives came at a time when many Governments faced “anaemic growth”, leading the United Kingdom to lend a hand in local economies.  The United Kingdom had therefore increased its oversight in economic areas.

There was an underlying issue of austerity and weaknesses such as a lack of transparency in the local management of public accounts, he said.  Regarding the political status question, there had been little movement due both to United Kingdom and Territory preferences.  With regard to independence, no proper debate had been initiated or road map set out.  Most likely, the route towards further autonomy — if not independence — was through incremental steps.

With regard to General Assembly resolution 69/105, he said that formal nationality issues were the responsibility of the United Kingdom.  However, “Belonger” issues were dealt with locally.  Being a “Belonger” was highly prized and commonly including the right to vote and better economic opportunities, among other benefits.  Increasing the number of “Belongers” was a sensitive issue and should be dealt with in a delicate manner.  In conclusion, he said significant efforts were being undertaken by both the Territories and the United Kingdom to improve the standard of political and economic governance.

DANIEL MANFRED MALCOLM, expert, said that in five years, the world was set to celebrate the diamond jubilee celebration of the United Nations.  But in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the celebration would be bittersweet because colonialism would likely remain.  When one thought of those who fought for independence in their now-sovereign countries, one could not help but realize that the cause for which those people fought must be kept alive in the case of decolonization.  In every dependent Territory, fear was the main enemy, and while it knew no boundaries, it had a nemesis, namely, education.

Administering Powers should not have to be reminded that their actions were not consistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter, he said.  In addition, the time had come for the United Nations to be more proactive in the situation of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  It needed to engage further in educational and awareness-raising activities on decolonization and should revisit the issue of referendums.  Authorities should accept any outcome as being the will of the people.  As an immediate consideration, Turks and Caicos should begin to consider the question of a possible “closer association” as the next legal move.  That alignment should be with a regional or hemispheric entity, he said, recommending Canada as his first choice.

Ms. REVERON-COLLAZO said that public debt had historically been used as a punitive measure for those that sought freedom from colonial Powers.  Recalling the case of Haiti, she said that people still under colonial yoke today remained victim to punitive economic measures by administrative Powers themselves committed to the well-being of the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The United States had presented to the international community that it had allowed the people of Puerto Rico the right to establish their own constitution, but what it had not shared was that the constitution had to first be approved by the United States Government.

In that connection, Puerto Rico had become a victim of neo-liberal policies and subject to high public debt, she said.  Payment of public debt to stockholders on Wall Street was given top priority.  Those actions contravened the spirit of General Assembly resolutions, which declared that all peoples had the right to determine their own social and economic development without the lack of economic preparation being used as a pretext to delay independence.

She said that Caribbean countries were among the most highly indebted in the world, citing Puerto Rico’s national debt of $73 billion, which required a significant amount of tax collected on the island.  Lack of sovereignty and the intervention of central Powers in decision-making, lack of access to the international financial market and limitations to access to global financial institutions, interference by the metropolis in positive financial agreements and other obstacles were nearly insurmountable.  It was not possible to have economic sovereignty without political sovereignty.  In the context of the Third International Decade, Territories continued to call for an end to economic measures that ran counter to the spirit of decolonization.  Immediate steps should be taken to assist Territories facing fiscal crises.  Finally, the “odious, heinous” debt placed on Puerto Rico by the United States should not be repaid.

For information media. Not an official record.