The decolonization process was “in stagnation” despite the progress made since the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it opened its annual debate on that issue.
Venezuela’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, declared colonialism in any form or manifestation, including economic exploitation, a contradiction of the decolonization Declaration. While emphasizing the important role played by the Special Committee on Decolonization, he said it must find different ways to enhance its efficiency in order to improve its interaction and cooperation with administrating Powers.
Speaking also in his capacity as Chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization — known formally as the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — he said that while an unprecedented number of Special Committee members had attended the Caribbean Regional Seminar earlier this year, only one specialized agency of the United Nations had participated in the opening meeting. No funds, programmes or specialized agencies had attended the ensuing discussions, he added. He went on to note that, during the course of 2016, the Special Committee had dissolved the “omnibus” draft resolution relating to small island Territories in order to give the “appropriate attention and dignity” to each of the 11 unique Non-Self-Governing Territories that it covered.
Many speakers highlighted the situation of one particular Non-Self-Governing Territory — the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). The representative of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed support for Argentina’s rights in its dispute with the United Kingdom over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. He welcomed the resumption of negotiations between the two countries on a peaceful and definitive solution.
Argentina’s representative said that, on 13 September, the two countries had issued a joint statement renewing their relationship, adding that the communiqué reflected the intent of both parties to resume dialogue on all aspects of the South Atlantic, without exclusion. He emphasized that the principle of self-determination was not absolute and must not be used as a pretext to violate the territorial integrity of existing States.
In other business today, the Committee approved the report of the Special Committee on Decolonization, presented by the subsidiary body’s Rapporteur. He also noted that Nicaragua had hosted the Special Committee’s Pacific Regional Seminar for the second consecutive year, focusing on commitments and actions for the decolonization of Non-Self Governing Territories.
Also speaking today were representatives of Venezuela (on behalf of the Union of South American Nations and in his national capacity), Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, Mexico, Antigua and Barbuda, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Uruguay.
Representatives of the United Kingdom and Argentina spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 4 October, to continue its general debate on decolonization.
Beginning its annual general debate on decolonization issues this afternoon, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) had before it the following documents: report of the Secretary-General on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 (e) of the Charter of the United Nations (document A/71/68), and 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 2016 (document A/71/23, chapters VI, VII and XIII).
Also before the Committee were the report of the Secretary-General on “implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations” (document A/71/69), and the report of the Secretary-General on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/71/70).
The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara (document A/71/224), and the 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 2016 (document A/71/23, chapters VIII, IX, X, XI and XIII).
Members also had before them requests for hearing by the Committee submitted by petitioners from Non-Self-Governing Territories (documents A/C.4/71/2, A/C.4/71/3, A/C.4/71/4, A/C.4/71/5, A/C.4/71/6 and A/C.4/71/7).
Introduction of Report
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee, presented that body’s report (document A/71/23), saying it contained detailed information on its activities regarding its agenda, as well as its recommendations in the form of draft resolutions. The report contained 13 chapters and 2 annexes on specific themes, including the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, economic and other activities affecting the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as well as the questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara, among others. Its recommendations included individual draft resolutions on all Territories previously addressed under the omnibus draft. He recalled that, during its substantive session in June, the Special Committee had continued to analyse developments in the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories, and noted that Nicaragua had hosted the Special Committee’s Pacific Regional Seminar for the second consecutive year, focusing on commitments and actions for the decolonization of Non-Self Governing Territories.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), 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, said decolonization was in stagnation, despite the progress made since the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960. The Pacific Regional Seminar held earlier in the year had been attended by an unprecedented number of Special Committee members. However, only one specialized agency had participated in the opening meeting, while no funds, programmes or specialized agencies had attended the ensuing discussions, he recalled.
He went on to note that during the course of 2016, the Special Committee had dissolved the so-called “omnibus” draft resolution in order to give the “appropriate attention and dignity” to each of the 11 unique Non-Self-Governing Territories it covered. As for the work ahead, the Special Committee would intensify dialogue with administering Powers in order to advance the decolonization mandate, he said. The United Nations system and the international community shared responsibility for decolonization, he said, emphasizing that they must do everything they could to eradicate colonialism by the end of the third International Decade, in 2020.
Mr. RAMÍREZ (Venezuela) also delivered a statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, noting that the Special Committee still had 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories on its agenda. He said colonialism in any form or manifestation, including economic exploitation, was in contradiction to the decolonization Declaration. Drawing attention to the recommendations contained in the final document of the Movement’s seventeenth Summit, he said member States had renewed their call on the international community to speed up the decolonization process towards completion. While emphasizing the important role played by the Special Committee, he said it must find different ways to enhance its efficiency in order to improve its interaction and cooperation with administrating Powers.
Since eradicating colonialism was one of the priorities of the United Nations, the Movement urged all administering Powers to pay full compensation for the economic, social and cultural consequences of their occupation, he said. Furthermore, it called upon the United Nations to ensure that economic and other activities carried out by those Powers did not affect the interests of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Rather, such activities must promote development and help them exercise their legitimate right to self-determination. Among other things, he reaffirmed the Movement’s position on the question of Puerto Rico, and urged the General Assembly actively to consider all its aspects. In that regard, he expressed concern about legislation adopted by the United States Congress, which imposed a fiscal control board over the Government of Puerto Rico.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the fact that 17 “Non-Self-Governing Territories” remained on the Special Committee’s list revealed that the decolonization process was not yet complete. Eliminating colonialism should remain a top priority of the United Nations, with Member States committing fully to the decolonization of those Territories. He invited the administering Powers to cooperate full and formally with the Special Committee and welcomed the efforts of the Department of Public Information and all its services and products aimed at promoting the eradication of colonialism.
He went on to reaffirm CELAC’s position on the question of the Malvinas Islands and reiterated its strongest support for the Argentina’s legitimate rights in the sovereign dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. Welcoming the resumption of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom for a peaceful and definitive solution, he also emphasized the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico, saying it was important for small Caribbean and Pacific island Territories to continue to take measures to facilitate the sustained and balanced growth of their fragile economies. The people of the Turks and Caicos Islands must be permitted to participate in the determination of their own future, he stressed. Concerning Western Sahara, CELAC reaffirmed all resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council.
Mr. RAMÍREZ (Venezuela) also delivered a statement on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), pointing out that, throughout their history, the continent’s peoples had fought heroically to end alien domination. Colonialism violated the fundamental tenets of democracy and freedom, while impeding social, cultural and economic development, he said. It was, therefore, the shared responsibility of Member States to intensify efforts to end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations. Regarding the question of the Malvinas, he reiterated UNASUR’s support for Argentina’s legitimate sovereign rights, as well as its call upon Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations as soon as possible.
He went on to recall that in their Los Cardales Declaration, UNASUR Heads of State and Government had rejected British exploration and exploitation activities relating to non-renewable natural resources on the Argentine continental shelf, adding that the Declaration called upon both parties to refrain from introducing unilateral modifications to the situation. Furthermore, the Special Committee, on 30 November 2012, had rejected the holding of a referendum in the Malvinas because its outcome would not end the sovereignty dispute. “The origins and the colonial nature of the dispute cannot be ignored,” he emphasized. Furthermore, Member States had reaffirmed all United Nations resolutions relating to Western Sahara, and expressed their solidarity with the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the principle of self-determination was not absolute and must not be used as a pretext for violating the territorial integrity of existing States. When the United Kingdom had occupied the Malvinas Islands by force in 1833, he recalled, it had expelled the authorities and population of the Argentinian State, which had legitimately been exercising its sovereignty over a Territory inherited from Spain. The United Kingdom had subsequently implanted its own settlers and controlled migration policies, determining the current composition of the Territory’s population. He emphasized that self-determination was not applicable to the Malvinas Islands’ current inhabitants, since they were not a people subjected to foreign subjugation, domination or exploitation by a colonial Power, as reflected in the more than 40 resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Special Committee since 1965, most recently on 23 June. Since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), Argentina and the United Kingdom had engaged in substantive negotiations, considering several proposals to settle the dispute, while making commitments and concessions.
He went on to stress that his country did not have, and had never had, anything against British citizens living on the Malvinas Islands. However, since the conflict of 1982, the United Kingdom had remained uncompromising in its refusal to resume negotiations, despite repeated calls by the international community. Many had also spoken out against the unilateral exploration and exploitation of resources in the area under sovereignty dispute. Expressing appreciation for the support of the Group of 77 and China, he noted that its Ministerial Declaration, adopted on 23 September, reiterated its recognition of Argentina’s rights in relation to unilateral exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the area under dispute. On 13 September, Argentina and the United Kingdom had issued a joint statement to renew their relationship, he said, adding that the communiqué reflected the intent of both parties to resume dialogue on all aspects of the South Atlantic, without exclusion, under a sovereignty safeguard that preserved Argentine rights over the Malvinas, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas.
AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt), expressing support for the statement delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that self-determination and decolonization was a pending goal. “We must strive to achieve tangible progress,” he emphasized, noting that some Member States continued to deny the right to self-determination while “championing for human rights” at the same time. Voicing support for the Palestinian people, he stressed their indisputable right to a viable State.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) said the existence of colonialism in any form was incompatible with the United Nations Charter and the decolonization Declaration. In that regard, the United Nations must take effective measures to speed up the decolonization process towards the complete elimination of colonialism. At the same time, the administering Powers had obligations under the Charter to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories. To that end, they should take all measures necessary to avoid any activities that may adversely affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, including their cultural, social and economic integrity.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), associating himself with CELAC and UNASUR, reiterated his country’s firm support for Argentina’s legitimate right to the Malvinas, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas. Halfway through the third Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, Latin America still had that special and particular colonial situation, he noted, calling upon both parties to return to the negotiating table. Emphasizing that it was not appropriate to refer to the principle of self-determination, since British subjects had been brought to the islands through an illegal occupation that had expelled the Argentines living there. While welcoming the recent contacts at the highest levels between the two countries, he said violations of multilateral decisions regarding General Assembly resolution 3149 (1976) were of great concern, and urged the parties to refrain from making any changes in the Territory. The United Kingdom must end any exploration or exploitation in the area under dispute, he added.
Mr. RAMÍREZ (Venezuela), reiterating his country’s deep and categorical rejection of colonialism, said the United Nations was vital to the process of doing away with the colonization that had subjugated many in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean — people to whom a moral debt must be paid. The decolonization process was incomplete because 17 Non-Self Governing Territories remained under the “euphemistically termed administering Powers”, which were just colonial Powers, he said, noting that some of whom had no intention of decolonizing, as was their duty. Instead, they wished the peoples of the Non-Self Governing Territories to remain indefinitely under the “colonial yoke”. Puerto Rico was the victim of a colonial scheme that had recently become more intense, preventing it from enjoying independence, he noted. Venezuela demanded that the United States authorities free Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican unjustly arrested for fighting for his country’s freedom. He also expressed outrage over the continuing exploitation of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands, and the surrounding maritime areas, in contravention of international law. That represented a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty dispute between two Member States, he said, calling for negotiations between both parties for a peaceful resolution, pursuant to international law, including resolutions adopted by the General Assembly.
JORGE SKINNER-KLEE (Guatemala) said it had been 50 years since the General Assembly had recognized the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom, which constituted a colonial situation. The occupying Power had provided settlement on Argentine soil, thereby ruling out the possibility of self-determination. “We are looking at a colonized area, not at colonized people,” he emphasized, calling upon both parties to resume negotiations and to avoid introducing unilateral modifications to the situation. Regarding Western Sahara, he expressed support for the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, and urged all parties concerned to demonstrate political commitment and engage in peaceful negotiations.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said more than 63 colonial territories had achieved independence since his country had first addressed the Special Committee in 1962. “This is factual proof that the work carried out over the years by the Special Committee has been fruitful and successful, but we must also insist that this work is not yet complete.” Calling on administering Powers to take the measures necessary to achieve the speedy decolonization of the remaining 17 Non‑Self-Governing Territories, he reaffirmed his country’s support for Argentina’s legitimate rights over the Malvinas, the South Georgia Islands and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, saying the situation represented a “special and particular” question implying a sovereignty dispute between two States. Chile called on both sides to resume negotiations, in accordance with United Nations resolutions, as soon as possible, emphasizing, in that regard, the importance of Assembly resolution 2065 (XX) and calling on the Secretary-General to renew his efforts in the current mission of good offices.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) underscored the need for the United Nations to remain engaged on decolonization processes. In the case of Western Sahara, Mexico supported efforts for a just and lasting solution to the conflict, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, he said. Underlining the right of the Saharan people to self-determination, he reasserted the importance of heeding their will and called for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to be allowed to work at full capacity in safe conditions. Turning to the Malvinas question, he said Mexico recognized Argentina’s rights in the sovereignty dispute, and wished to see Argentina and the United Kingdom — which shared values and were linked in several ways — maintain their search for a peaceful and definitive resolution. Mexico called on the parties to refrain from unilateral actions and urged them to take advantage of the Secretary-General’s good offices.
WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda) said that more than 80 former colonies — comprising 750 million people — had gained independence since the founding of the United Nations, a feat that had required strong political will and shared compromise. Completing the task hinged upon open dialogue with administering Powers, the Special Committee and the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. He reiterated calls for negotiated and mutually acceptable political solutions to all disputes, requesting that all parties implement mandates set forth by the Security Council. He also called upon all parties to continue to demonstrate political will and to work in an atmosphere that would promote continuous dialogue, urging that political, economic, human rights and security concerns be at the forefront of all negotiations.
JOSE OSVALDO SANABRIA RIVAROLA (Paraguay), describing colonialism as one of history’s negative marks affecting international relations, said that, while some States had benefitted from it, others had suffered. Despite commitments, 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories proved the persistence of colonialism, he said, encouraging the United Nations, as well as Member States to step up their efforts to make progress towards eradicating it. “Political will of States is critical in achieving decolonization,” he said, emphasizing the need for further efforts. Regarding the Malvinas, he reiterated Paraguay’s long-standing position, which encouraged Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations and refrain from introducing unilateral modifications to the situation.
ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), while acknowledging the progress made since the adoption of the decolonization Declaration, said the remaining 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories were proof that the international community must step up efforts to attain the decolonization goal. Reiterating his country’s position on the Malvinas, he expressed support for Argentina’s claim. Sovereignty, democracy and recognition of international law were linked, he said, stressing that international disputes must be resolved through just solutions, acceptable to all parties.
CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay), associating herself with UNASUR and CELAC, called for a redoubling of decolonization efforts. On Western Sahara, she defended the right of the Saharan people to free determination, emphasizing the vital importance of resuming conversations between Morocco and the Polisario Front as soon as possible. Emphasizing that her country supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy, she said Morocco’s sovereign but unilateral decision regarding MINURSO’s civilian component set a dangerous precedent, adding that Uruguay supported the draft resolution on Western Sahara proposed by Algeria. Regarding the Malvinas, she said that, although Uruguay faithfully defended the right to self-determination, that principle did not apply to the Territory’s people, she said. Uruguay supported Argentina’s legitimate rights in its sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom, and it was vital that the two sides resume negotiations towards a peaceful, just and definitive solution.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said his Government was in no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. Nor was it in doubt about the Falkland islanders’ right to self-determination. There could be no dialogue about sovereignty unless the Falkland islanders so wished, he emphasized, saying Argentina should respect the results of the 2013 referendum. He went on to state that exploring for hydrocarbons off the islands was a legitimate commercial venture over which Argentine domestic law did not apply.
The representative of Argentina responded by stating that the Malvinas were an integral part of Argentine territory, but illegally occupied by the United Kingdom. That had been recognized by several international organizations, he said, citing several General Assembly resolutions on the issue. Calling for resumed negotiations as soon as possible, he said the principle of self-determination was completely inappropriate and inapplicable in the case of the Malvinas, adding that resolving the dispute could not hinge upon the results of a referendum. The interests of the inhabitants of the Malvinas, and their way of life, were safeguarded by General Assembly resolutions and the Constitution of Argentina, he emphasized.
 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).