Colonial Behaviour, Thinking still ‘Rampant’ Despite ‘Historic Successes’, ‘Untiring Efforts’ of United Nations, Meeting Told
While the United Nations decolonization process had achieved “historic successes”, colonial thinking and behaviour were still “rampant”, with 17 lands remaining on the Organization’s list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it opened its annual debate on the issue.
“It is due to the untiring efforts of the United Nations […] that the vast majority of the world’s population today is no longer under colonial rule,” Committee Chair Brian Bowler, said, adding that decolonization had been one of the most defining issues of the latter part of the twentieth century and the early part of the twenty-first.
In particular, those successes were due to the “unstinting” efforts 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 (also known as the Special Committee on Decolonization), founded in 1961, he said. It had carried out its mandate in a number of ways, including by sending visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories on its list and the hearing of petitioners. “We are all aware that our task is not yet complete,” he said. “We must continue our common endeavour in the spirit of cooperation among all parties involved to complete the decolonization process.”
Presenting the report of the Special Committee for 2015 was its Rapporteur, Bashar Ja’afari (Syria), who gave an account of various aspects of the subsidiary body’s efforts relating to the Non-Self-Governing Territories under its purview.
Desra Percaya (Indonesia), Acting Chair of the Special Committee, said that, at the midpoint of the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism it remained imperative to intensify international efforts to assist the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories in their quest for decolonization. The Special Committee had adopted a new measure in 2015 that affected its modus operandi: while maintaining its omnibus resolution covering 11 Territories, it would desegregate that resolution beginning with the 2016 session and adopt a dedicated resolution for each Territory. In order to resolve the remaining decolonization issues, it was indispensable to ensure the engagement of the Territories’ peoples, as well as the involvement of the administering Powers, he continued, emphasizing that the United Nations had an ongoing responsibility to the remaining Territories, which were home to 1.6 million people.
Central to this afternoon’s debate was the particular question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) , with many delegations expressing support for Argentina’s claim of sovereignty over the Territory, as well as the neighbouring South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. The longstanding dispute with the United Kingdom over the Territory must come to an end through the resumption of bilateral negotiations, several speakers said.
In that vein, Paraguay’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), recalled that December would mark the fiftieth anniversary of General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), through which the Assembly had recognized the issue of the Malvinas as one centred on sovereignty. He expressed deep concern that so much time had elapsed, yet so little progress had been made towards resolving the dispute.
Brazil’s representative, also reaffirming its strong historical support for Argentina in the dispute, said it had been nearly 200 years since British troops had first occupied the Territory. In that “special and particular” situation, he stressed, Brazil supported a recent declaration by MERCOSUR States barring the unauthorized exploration of fossil fuels in the disputed Territory.
Argentina’s representative stressed that there existed no people subjected to colonialism in the Malvinas, only a group of inhabitants of British origin living on the territory of another State and protected by a systemic migratory policy aimed at creating its own tailor-made population. A fair international order could not be built if there remained a double standard in complying with United Nations resolutions, he said. Argentina expected the United Kingdom to accept the invitation to hold a frank and open dialogue, and while the dispute was pending, not to carry out unilateral actions such as continued fishing and the militarization of the South Atlantic.
On other matters, Bolivia’s representative stressed that the island of Puerto Rico was a “Latin American country submitted to the colonial yoke”. He also denounced the practices of Israel, saying they were in violation of international law by its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory. Bolivia condemned the harsh conditions prevailing under that occupation, which had created a “culture of hatred”, and reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ecuador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Uruguay (on behalf of the Union of South American Nations), China, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Venezuela and Chile.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the United Kingdom, Morocco and Argentina.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 9 October, to begin hearing petitioners.
Beginning its annual general debate on all decolonization items this afternoon, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) had before it the following documents under agenda item 59: report 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 for 2015 (document A/70/23, chapters VII and XIII); and a report of the Secretary-General on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73e of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/70/67).
Under item 60, the Committee had before it document A/70/23, chapters V and XIII; under item 61 it had before it document A/70/23, chapters VI and XIII, and a report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the Declaration by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/70/64).
The Committee also had before it, under item 62, a report of the Secretary-General on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, documents A/70/66 and A/70/66/Add.1). Finally, under item 63, members had before them document A/70/23, chapters VIII, IX, X, XI and XIII, a report of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara (document A/70/201), and a report of the Secretary-General on the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (documents A/70/73 and A/70/73/Add.1).
Introduction of Report
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee on Decolonization, presented the report (document A/70/23) containing detailed accounts of various aspects of that subsidiary body’s, including those relating to the various Non-Self-Governing Territories under its purview.
The report, he continued, comprised 13 chapters (as well as two annexes), several of which focused on specific themes, such as the dissemination of information on decolonization, the sending of missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories and the work of organizations associated with the United Nations that benefitted the Territories. It also addressed the situations in individual Non-Self-Governing Territories, he said.
Reaffirming the Special Committee’s vital role in advancing the decolonization agenda, he recalled that the Regional Decolonization Seminar held in Nicaragua in May 2015 had advanced the body’s goals, including by disseminating information about decolonization. He went on to say that visiting missions provided an effective means of determining the needs and desires of the people in Non-Self-Governing Territories.
DIEGO MOREJÓN (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reiterated the group’s firm support for the decolonization process, saying that the establishment of the Special Committee in 1961 and its subsequent work was one of the outstanding results of the United Nations. However, the fact that 17 Territories remained non-self-governing, some of which were located in his region, revealed that the process was not yet complete. CELAC invited the administering Powers to cooperate fully in the Special Committee’s work and to regularly communicate accurate information on each of the Territories under their administration.
Expressing deep concern “regarding United Nations Web TV coverage incidents during the Special Committee’s sessions held in June 2015”, he urged the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information to take measures to avoid future incidents of that sort. He also reiterated CELAC’s strong support for the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic in its sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. General Assembly resolution 31/49 called upon both parties concerned to refrain from adopting decisions that entailed the introduction of unilateral modifications to the situation, he emphasized, highlighting the permanent constructive attitude and willingness of the Argentine Government to reach, through negotiations, a peaceful and definitive solution to the anachronistic colonial situation on American soil.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), noted that despite significant progress, the Fourth Committee still had 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories on its agenda. To enhance its efficiency, improve its interaction with the administering Powers and ensure the active participation of the Territories’ peoples in determining their own future, the Special Committee needed to find different ways to improve its efficiency.
Recalling that the eradication of colonialism had been one of the priorities of the United Nations, he said in that regard that the Non-Aligned Movement remained committed to ensuring that tangible achievements resulted during the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2011-2020). Furthermore, the Movement urged all administering Powers to pay full compensations for the economic, social and cultural consequences of their occupation. Moreover, it called upon the United Nations to ensure the economic and other activities of the administering Powers did not affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, but rather, promoted development and assistance in the pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination.
The Non-Aligned Movement, he continued, also urged Member States to implement fully the decisions and resolutions of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concerning the return of cultural properties to the peoples still under colonial rule or foreign occupation. Finally, the Movement reaffirmed the right of Puerto Rico to self-determination and urged the United Nations to actively consider the question of that Territory in all its aspects. The Non-Aligned Movement also continued to support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, as well as their claim to an independent and viable State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
FEDERICO ALBERTO GONZALEZ FRANCO (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), referred to the case of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime area, reaffirming Argentina’s sovereign rights over those disputed Territories. The issue was indeed a matter of sovereignty, and the only way to put an end to the dispute was the resumption of bilateral negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom. On 16 July 2015, he recalled, at a meeting in Brazil, the Heads of State of MERCOSUR and associated States had reaffirmed that unilateral measures in the Malvinas were not compatible with United Nations principles.
In that context, he continued, they had recalled that December 2015 would mark the fiftieth anniversary of General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), through which it had determined that the issue was one centred on sovereignty. They had expressed their deep concern that so much time had elapsed with so little progress being made. In addition, the Heads of State had adopted a resolution barring non-authorized explorative activities in Argentina’s sovereign territory, urging States to refrain from taking decisions that would unilaterally impact the situation and that would not help resolve the sovereignty dispute. The “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as other groups had also recently recognized that such foreign exploration of fossil fuels in the Malvinas was unacceptable, he noted, and had recognized Argentina’s right to take administrative and legal action in full respect for international law.
GONZALO KONCKE (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), said the issue of decolonization had always been a priority for his group. The question of the Malvinas Islands, which had been considered by South American countries in several forums, had historic and legal circumstances that excluded the possibility of a resolution under the principle of self-determination. He reiterated UNASUR’S support for the legitimate sovereign rights of Argentina in the matter.
Calling for an end to British exploration and exploitation of non-renewable natural resources on the Argentine continental shelf, he went on to recall that UNASUR had issued a declaration in 2012, which emphasized that the United Kingdom’s military presence in the Malvinas was contrary to the region’s policy of seeking a peaceful settlement of the sovereignty dispute. UNASUR also rejected what only the United Kingdom described as a “referendum”, which did not modify the essence of the Malvinas Question. Its outcome would not end the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, he stressed.
DANIEL FILMUS (Argentina) recalled that, 50 years ago, the General Assembly had publicly and officially recognized the existence of a sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas. Over the past 50 years, the United Nations had called upon the only two parties involved — Argentina and the United Kingdom — to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the “question of the Malvinas Islands”, he said.
He went on to say that, on the islands, there existed “no people” subjected to colonialism, but only a group of inhabitants of British origin living on the territory of another State and protected by a systemic migratory policy aimed at creating its own tailor-made population. Argentina, he emphasized, had no wish whatsoever to forcibly integrate the civil population of the islands, or to change their nationality and lifestyle. It respected their human rights and took their interests into account. However, that could not be interpreted as granting the inhabitants of the Malvinas an alleged right to self-determination, he cautioned.
Argentina would not cede nor sacrifice, on behalf of the current British inhabitants and the military and economic interest of the United Kingdom, its legitimate historical rights over the territory they occupied, he reiterated. A fair international order could not be built while there remained a double standard in complying with United Nations resolutions, he stressed. All humankind knew that colonialism was not eternal; sooner or later, people peacefully recovered territories usurped through military power. Argentina expected the United Kingdom not to continue carrying out unilateral actions such as fishing and the militarization of the South Atlantic. After 50 years of the existence of General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), Argentina invited the United Kingdom to stop denying an evident reality and to resume dialogue for a lasting and peaceful solution, he reiterated.
WEI ZONGLEI (China) said that while the decolonization process had achieved “historical successes”, some colonial thinking and behaviour were still “rampant”, constituting a source of conflict. China hoped that, through dialogue and negotiations, the disputes would soon be resolved, he said, stressing that his country had always supported the struggles of colonized peoples for self-determination.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), associating himself with CELAC, MERCOSUR and UNASUR, reaffirmed his country’s strong historical support for Argentina in its dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas. Brazil had been one of the first countries to oppose the British military invasion of the Territory in 1982. Pointing out that this year would mark 50 years since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), he said, expressing regret that after 50 years and nearly 200 years since British troops had first occupied the islands, a resolution had not been found to that “special and particular” situation. Brazil defended the principle of territorial integrity and called on the parties not to cite the principle of the right to self-determination of peoples in the case of the Malvinas.
Emphasizing that the British inhabitants of the islands had been introduced illegally, he said they had expelled Argentine citizens who had previously lived there. The lack of British availability to resume conversations was a contradiction of the United Kingdom’s position of respect for General Assembly resolutions, he said. Brazil supported MERCOSUR’s special declaration barring the unauthorized exploitation of fossil fuels and supported Argentina’s right to undertake legal action in that regard. Furthermore, the patrolling of warships in the area was in defiance of the culture of peace that the countries of the region wished to pursue, he said, describing the Latin American and Caribbean as a “zone of peace”. The desire for a negotiated solution was shared not only by Latin American countries, but by all developing countries, he said, citing the various assertions of support for Argentina’s legitimate right to the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. Resuming negotiations under the good offices of the United Nations Secretary-General was the only way forward, he added.
RICARDO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ (Mexico), associating himself with CELAC, described self-determination as an inalienable right under the principles of the United Nations Charter. Mexico would continue to promote that right in order to help create constructive proposals and resolve issues of decolonization. Regarding Western Sahara, all efforts had been undertaken to find a lasting resolution to that conflict, and Mexico stood with the Sahrawi people’s rights to a referendum aimed at exploring all options regarding their future. Regarding the Malvinas, he said Mexico recognized Argentina’s rights as valid, both historically and legally, and reaffirmed his country’s desire to see Argentina and the United Kingdom renew negotiations in keeping with the resolutions and declarations on the issue. Mexico called upon both parties to avoid taking unilateral actions, and to take advantage of the good offices of the Secretary-General in resolving the dispute.
ANA CRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ PINEDA (Guatemala), associating herself with CELAC and the Non-Aligned Movement, said it had been 50 years since the United Nations had recognized the dispute over the Malvinas, but beyond that dispute, the situation was of a purely colonial nature. Argentina’s territorial integrity had been violated when part of its population had been chased out by the British and prevented from returning. The occupying Power had systematically installed its own population, and Guatemala found it very difficult to draw the conclusion that those people had a right to self-determination. The Malvinas remained a colonized Territory, he said, welcoming the consistent desire to resolve the dispute and reiterating Guatemala’s call for the United Kingdom to achieve a satisfactory solution for both sides. Also turning to Western Sahara, he said that his country lent its support to General Assembly and Security Council resolutions in order to help the parties concerned find a fair and lasting solution to that question. Guatemala welcomed measures undertaken to build mutual trust and cooperation in creating a climate conducive to dialogue aimed at implementing the referendum. Such actions were not only necessary for the people of Western Sahara, but also in order to ensure the peace of the entire Sahel, he pointed out.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA VELASQUEZ (Peru), associating himself with CELAC, UNASUR and MERCOSUR, noted that more than 80 territories had achieved independence in the last half century. However, the work was not finished, because 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remained. The United Nations should gear its efforts towards taking stronger action to overturn that situation, he said, calling for decisive political will and the adoption of a case-by-case approach. It was important to provide for ongoing evaluation of each decolonization case, with a view to taking action towards accelerating decolonization. The case of the Malvinas was a “special and particular case”, he noted, adding that his country had historically supported Argentina’s sovereign rights over the Territory and surrounding maritime areas. The issue must be resolved through negotiations between the two parties, he said, advocating the resumption of talks as soon as possible. Peru also reiterated the importance of refraining from decisions that would impose unilateral modifications of the situation, in keeping with General Assembly resolutions.
LUIS ARANCIBIA FERNANDEZ (Bolivia) associated himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, CELAC, UNASUR and MERCASUR in expressing his country’s commitment to the multilateral work of decolonization and the principle of self-determination. Strengthening multilateralism was appropriate in ensuring the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, as well as the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. In that context, Bolivia reaffirmed Argentina’s rights over the disputed Territory, he said, adding that the current situation undermined that country’s economic capacity. Bolivia rejected the exploitation of fossil fuels undertaken by unauthorized companies in the area, which was damaging to the people of Argentina.
Turning to the question of Puerto Rico, he said it belonged to Latin America and an unfair colonial status had been imposed upon the Territory. “It’s a Latin American country subjected to the colonial yoke,” he stressed, urging the United States to take action on Puerto Rican political prisoners, including Oscar López Rivera. The Fourth Committee should exert maximum efforts to ensure the Territory’s independence, he emphasized. He went on to denounce the practices of Israel, saying they were in violation of international law by their illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory. Bolivia condemned the harsh conditions prevailing under that occupation, which had created a “culture of hatred”, and reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.
RAFAEL DARIO (Venezuela), associating himself with UNASUR, CELAC and the Non-Aligned Movement, said colonialism persisted as the most flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter, emphasizing that issues of independence, sovereignty and self-determination required immediate attention. Decolonization had been one of the most beautiful processes in the United Nations, and the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism required an end to that violation of human rights. Venezuela’s sister nation of Puerto Rico remained under an occupying Power, he noted, adding that the United States must put an end to that confrontation. The situation in the Malvinas provided a clear example of colonial actions, showing that even in the present day, the use of military force prevailed in the face of international law.
General Assembly and Security Council resolutions referred to the principle of self-determination, but the conflict related to Argentina’s territorial integrity, not the self-determination of its people, he emphasized. Venezuela wished to say loud and clear: “The Malvinas are Argentine and it will not stop the call for the freedom of our sister nation.” Venezuela also attached great importance to flagrant violations of international law in Western Sahara and would lend its voice in support of self-determination for the Sahrawi people. Venezuela would defend their sovereign right to hold a self-determination referendum under the agreement of 1991, he stressed, adding that it also affirmed its support for two sovereign States, Palestine and Israel — the only solution to that tragic situation.
JOSE ANTONIO COUSINO, (Chile), associated himself with UNASUR, CELAC and the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterating his country’s support for the decolonization process and the exercise of the inalienable right of self-determination. Chile recognized that after 50 years, the Committee’s work was successful, but the process was not complete. He called on the administering Powers to take action with a view to rapid decolonization, in keeping with the United Nations Charter.
The Malvinas question, however, represented a sovereignty dispute, he said, reaffirming his country’s support for Argentina’s legitimate claim, in keeping with relevant United Nations statements and resolutions, he said. Chile called upon the United Kingdom to comply with Assembly resolution 2069 (XX) and stop any unilateral decision, especially in the area of military exercises and the exploration of natural resources, including fossil fuels. He reiterated calls for the Secretary-General to renew efforts to resume negotiations and find a peaceful settlement, especially considering the Argentines’ ability and willingness to negotiate.
Discussion on Hearing of Petitioners
The Committee then took up the matter of the hearing of petitioners over the next few days.
The representative of Algeria requested a “procedural” rejection of requests by two petitioners on the question of Western Sahara, on the grounds that the Committee’s mandate was to study the situation of Non-Self-Governing Territories, not the peoples of independent States.
The representative of Morocco rejected that request, stressing that the people of Western Sahara should have the right to speak freely before the Committee.
In that regard, the representative of Venezuela expressed support for Algeria’s position, while the representative of Senegal supported that of Morocco, adding that “there is a need to hear these people”.
The Chair proposed engaging in further dialogue on the matter.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said his country had no doubt about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), nor the islanders’ right to self-determination. Argentina referred to statements of diplomatic support, but none of them diluted the right to self-determination of the islanders. There would be no dialogue on sovereignty over the Territory unless the islanders wanted dialogue, he emphasized, adding that they did not want dialogue.
He went on to say that the relationship between his country and the islanders was a modern one, respectful of their wishes. The United Kingdom had not militarized the Falkland Islands (Malvinas); they had come to protect the Islands against any threat and continued to keep force levels under review. Furthermore, the hydrocarbon exploration consisted of a legitimate expedition, during which international companies drilling in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) adhered to the strict regulations imposed by the local government. Argentina’s politically motivated attempt to target the exploration had dangerous implications for global business and free trade, he cautioned, adding that the only unilateral action taking place in the Territory consisted of Argentina’s threat to imprison workers on the drilling project, and therefore, force an economic blockade.
The representative of Morocco, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the incendiary statement from Venezuela was baseless in both doctrine and substance. Regarding the self-determination of Western Sahara, one assisted and advised populations in relation to their self-determination on the basis of their development. Moreover, the General Assembly had identified four solutions to a resolution of the for Western Sahara question, but without any reference to a mechanism that would lead to a referendum, which was the least-used mechanism in terms of self-determination. There had only been five used in the history of decolonization, he said. Before a referendum, Western Sahara must add the tribal process to self-determination, but it would continue until the United Nations decided a referendum was not possible, he continued. Moreover, Venezuela did not have any legitimate claim to hold forth on human rights. During the recent demonstrations, its Government had carried out serious violations of human rights, including arrests, torture, killings and the detention of children.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking on a point of order, reminded his counterpart from Morocco that he was dealing with decolonization and that he should limit his statement to relevant questions.
The representative of Morocco, again speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Venezuela had no legitimacy to discuss human rights at all, and should be more alarmed for its own self-determination and inability to shake off the regime.
The representative of Argentina, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, in response to the United Kingdom, recalled that an integral part of his country’s territory had been occupied in an illegitimate way, before listing the General Assembly resolutions recognizing the issue of sovereignty between Argentina and the United Kingdom. He requested efforts to find a peaceful and lasting resolution to the dispute and expressed regret that the United Kingdom had disregarded the facts of history, which showed the latter’s lack of any legitimacy when it came to the Territory. Instead of recalling the events leading up to the occupation, the United Kingdom should focus on resuming negotiations, he added.
 A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).