Task of Decolonization Remains Urgent but Incomplete, Speakers Stress as Fourth Committee Continues General Debate

GA/SPD/611
7 October 2016
Seventy-first Session 6th Meeting (PM)

Task of Decolonization Remains Urgent but Incomplete, Speakers Stress as Fourth Committee Continues General Debate

Some Delegates Divided over Western Sahara, as Others Spotlight Questions of Falklands Islands (Malvinas), Puerto Rico

Considering that the peoples of the world’s 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories were still voiceless in terms of deciding their own future, the task of decolonization remained urgent but incomplete, many speakers noted today, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on that issue.

Recalling that his own country had emerged from a situation of occupation, colonization and apartheid, Namibia’s representative said that a United Nations resolution had allowed its people to clearly state their desire for self-determination.  On the question of Western Sahara, therefore, Namibia called upon Morocco to demonstrate its respect for, and adherence to, the principles of the United Nations, he said, emphasizing that the legitimacy of any claim over the Territory should be decided by the people themselves.  “The time for the implementation of the referendum has come.”

Agreeing, South Africa’s representative said the fact that Morocco was the occupying Power was not debatable and had been settled by both the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.  African Union Heads of State, as well as the bloc’s Peace and Security Council, had consistently declared that without a successful resolution of the Western Sahara situation, tensions in the Territory would remain and efforts to promote integration in the Maghreb region would be futile.  The African Union’s Special Envoy for Western Sahara had recently criticized Morocco’s decision to expel United Nations personnel, he recalled, describing that measure as a “very dangerous precedent”.

On the other hand, some speakers expressed support for Morocco’s autonomy proposal for Western Sahara, with Senegal’s representative pointing out that the Security Council considered the initiative serious and credible.  Since it had been developed in good faith, the proposal would contribute to the settlement of the dispute, he said.

The Gambia’s representative noted that the Sahara was experiencing an economic transformation and welcomed Morocco’s creation of an enabling environment for a new political dispensation.  He recalled that the communal and regional elections held in September 2015 had provided the Sahara with a solid political framework.

Several delegates from Latin America and the Caribbean voiced concerns about the lack of progress in decolonization across their region.  Ecuador’s representative described Puerto Rico as a special and emblematic case of that paralysis.  He also voiced support for direct peaceful negotiations on the question of the Malvinas Islands[1] in order to restore Argentina’s legitimate right to the Territory.

In similar vein, Nicaragua’s representative said the Malvinas were a bilateral dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom, and called upon both parties to resume negotiations on ending the Territory’s illegal occupation.  On the question of Puerto Rico, he emphasized that it must become free and sovereign, and that its colonial Power must provide a genuine process for the Boricua people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.

Also speaking today were representatives of Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Colombia, Indonesia, El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia, China, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, Guinea, Palau, Congo, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Jordan, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea and Togo.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the United Kingdom, Argentina, India and Pakistan.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 10 October, to conclude its general debate on decolonization and take action on a number of related draft resolutions.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on decolonization issues (See Press Release GA/SPD/607 of 3 October for further background information).

Statements

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, emphasized the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  She called for immediate action to put in place a timeline to end the occupation and compel Israel, the occupying Power, to comply with United Nations resolutions and with the Arab Peace Initiative launched 14 years ago by her country to establish an independent Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital, and to withdraw from all occupied Arab lands.  The Gulf Cooperation Council also welcomed efforts to find a consensual solution to the question of Western Sahara, under the framework of Security Council resolution 2285 (2016).

She went on to express appreciation for efforts by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to move the process forward, and referred to the Riyadh Statement in which the Gulf Cooperation Council renewed its principled position regarding the self-determination of Western Sahara, and called for a solution acceptable to both parties.  She also welcomed the cooperation of human rights organizations and other efforts to improve social and economic development in the Territory.  While urging all parties to reach a political compromise through negotiations, the Gulf Cooperation Council rejected anything that would adversely affect Morocco or its sovereignty, she emphasized, adding that a solution to the dispute was essential to stability in the Sahel region.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES (Colombia) reiterated his country’s full support for Argentina on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), noting that it was a sovereignty dispute between two countries.  While acknowledging the contribution of the Secretary-General’s good offices, he voiced regret over the lack of progress.  In that regard, he emphasized the importance of General Assembly resolution 31/49, which called upon the parties to avoid making unilateral decisions.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories served as a vivid reminder that more must be done to eradicate colonialism.  Welcoming the efforts already undertaken, he acknowledged that visiting missions, annual regional seminars, and the observance of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories provided a unique opportunity to discuss updated information on their respective situations.  However, the relevant United Nations entities must continue to provide technical assistance to the Territories, he stressed, calling at the same time for intensive collaboration and continued support from the international community and the administering Powers.  “Only with open minds, active participation and the political will of all the parties concerned can we proceed and achieve progress,” he stressed.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the Committee had recently heard petitioners who had briefly shared their suffering under the colonial yoke and their determined fight for freedom.  Nicaragua welcomed, in particular, the petitioners from French Polynesia and New Caledonia, he said, expressing solidarity with their struggle.  The case of the Malvinas Islands was a bilateral dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom which must reach a peaceful solution, he said.  The United Kingdom had refused to resume dialogue and Nicaragua called on both parties to resume negotiations to end the Territory’s illegal occupation.  He went on to emphasize that Puerto Rico must become free and sovereign, and that its colonial Power must provide a genuine process for the Boricua people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.  It was time the United States listened to humanitarian calls for the unconditional and immediate release of Oscar Lopes Rivera, he stressed.

RUBEN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), associating with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the issue of the Malvinas Islands was the special matter of an invading Power which had forcefully displaced a population.  The only solution was a negotiation process and he expressed solidarity with Argentina on the matter, calling for both parties to refrain from unilateral actions.  Turning to Western Sahara, he called for a peaceful solution respecting that population’s human rights and said talks should be resumed as soon as possible.  The actions of Morocco had negatively affected the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) mandate.  On Puerto Rico he supported any deal that would end its occupation.  The region should be free of colonies, and Puerto Rico was part of a regional history of freedom and independence.  Finally, he expressed appreciation for the work of the United Nations Department of Public Information and asked for the web page to be made available in all six languages, contributing to transparency. 

DULCE SANCHEZ (Honduras) said the United Nations must continue its efforts to complete the self-determination process of for the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Progress would be possible through constructive dialogue between the Territories, the administering Powers and the Special Committee on Decolonization.  On the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), she cited General Assembly resolution 31/49, recalling that it called upon Argentina and the United Kingdom to abstain from unilateral changes to the Territory’s situation while the dispute was still pending.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLIZ (Bolivia) said the time had come to strengthen international efforts for the rapid decolonization of the Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Citing the relevant General Assembly resolutions, he urged the administering Powers to end their interventionist policies.  He went on to voice concern over the situation in Puerto Rico, which called for independence from North American colonialism.  Despite the adoption of various resolutions on the matter, it was unfortunate that the United States exercised financial control over the Territory, overseeing its debt restructuring.  He reiterated Bolivia’s support for Argentina on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), calling on both parties to engage in meaningful dialogue.

HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, CELAC and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), said that certain Powers were slowing down the decolonization process, describing Puerto Rico as a special and emblematic case of that paralysis.  Despite its 119-year-long colonial domination, its people had preserved their Latin American and Caribbean identity, he said, calling upon the Government of the United States to shoulder its responsibility as the administering colonial Power and speed up the process by which the Puerto Rican people would exercise their right to self-determination and choose from the available decolonization options.  Describing Western Sahara as the last remaining colony in Africa, he said that while Morocco had made significant contributions, it was illegally occupying that Territory and should enter into negotiations with the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario).  On the issue of the Malvinas Islands, he voiced support for direct peaceful negotiations so that Argentina’s legitimate right to the Territory could be restored.  Finally, on the matter of Gibraltar, he said Spain had presented a formula for joint sovereignty which Ecuador supported and which could put an end to the last colonial situation in Europe.

XU ZHONGSHENG (China) said the General Assembly had adopted the decolonization Declaration and established the Special Committee on Decolonization.  However, much work remained to be done, he said, adding that China had always supported the struggles of Non-Self-Governing Territories for self-determination.  On the matter of the Malvinas Islands, he said his country supported Argentina’s claim of sovereign over the Territory.  It was China’s position that when addressing such disputes, the parties should uphold the United Nations Charter and find solutions acceptable to all.  China stood ready to work with other Member States to realize decolonization aims, he said.

WOUTER H. ZAAYMAN (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed serious concern that Western Sahara was the last colony on the African continent listed by the United Nations as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.  The fact that Morocco was the occupying Power was not debatable and had been settled by both the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.  African Union Heads of State, as well as its Peace and Security Council, had consistently declared that without a successful resolution of the situation, tensions in the Territory would remain and efforts to promote integration in the Maghreb region would be futile.  The bloc’s Special Envoy for Western Sahara, former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, had recently criticized Morocco’s decision to expel United Nations personnel, calling the step a “very dangerous precedent”, he recalled.  South Africa remained concerned by the Morocco’s attempts to frustrate efforts by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christopher Ross, to travel to Western Sahara, and by reports of violations of the ceasefire agreement in the Al Guerguerat area.  In that regard, he called on all parties to adhere to their obligations and prevent the escalation of tensions.

MAMADOU TANGARA (Gambia) said the road to peace in the Sahara had been long, and it was therefore critical to voice numerous calls for decolonization and to invest in the political process in order to achieve durable peace.  Given Morocco’s demonstration of magnanimity and vision, it was incumbent on all to support its autonomy initiative, submitted to the Security Council in 2007, he said.  Morocco had registered major achievements in economic and social development by investing $7.8 billion through the New Model of Development, he said, noting that the Sahara was experiencing an economic transformation and further development could be achieved if peace and stability was restored.  Gambia welcomed Morocco’s creation of an enabling environment for a new political dispensation, he said, recalling that the communal and regional elections held in September 2015 had provided the Sahara with a solid political framework in which the region’s people had an opportunity to manage their own affairs.  Peace and stability in the Sahara would also mean peace and stability in the Maghreb, he added.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the progress of decolonization had slowed down considerably at a time when the process was far from complete.  “Uniform, comprehensive and non-selective implementation of United Nations resolutions should be our focus,” she said, adding:  “Selective implementation erodes confidence in the system and undermines the credibility of the Organization.”  She went on to voice regret that even in the twenty-first century, some Territories remained under the yoke of colonial and foreign occupation.  Citing an example, she said the United Nations decolonization agenda would remain incomplete without a resolution of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.  For more than six decades, Security Council resolutions promising a plebiscite that would allow the Kashmiri people to determine their own destiny had not been implemented, she noted, describing that as the most persistent failure of the United Nations.  Kashmiris had only seen broken promises and brutal oppression, she added.

PENNELOPE BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago) said the agenda of the Special Committee on Decolonization remained unfinished, with 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories lacking a voice in their own future.  Six of them were located in the Caribbean region, making the issue one of special importance as it impeded regional integration.  While internal reforms had been enacted in several Non-Self-Governing Territories, little progress had been made towards decolonization, she noted, adding.  Trinidad and Tobago also maintained its long-standing support for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, and encouraged the parties to continue negotiations on a just, lasting and mutually accepted political solution.

ANTHONY BOSAH (Nigeria) expressed concern that the question of Palestine remained unsolved, and that an acceptable political solution to the dispute over self-determination for Western Sahara was yet to be achieved since the International Court of Justice delivered its advisory opinion on that question.  In that regard, he called for renewed commitment and efforts to attain political independence for the people of Palestine on the basis of a two-State solution.  All efforts must be undertaken to avert the deterioration of peace and security in the region, including through intensified negotiations to settle the dispute, he emphasized.  Working towards a date for the self-determination referendum in Western Sahara was of key importance, he said, calling upon the Security Council to prioritize the matter.

FRANÇOIS ABOU SOUMAH (Guinea) acknowledged efforts by the United Nations for a peaceful solution in Western Sahara, and encouraged the concerned parties to engage in meaningful consultations.  Taking note of the reforms undertaken by the Government of Morocco, he said it had strengthened the role of its National Human Rights Council and its cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, adding that Guinea supported Morocco’s autonomy initiative.

CALEB OTTO (Palau), empathizing with the people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, said the self-determination process was very precious.  On regional developments, he congratulated French Polynesia and New Caledonia for having become the newest members of the Pacific Islands Forum.  Regarding Western Sahara, he welcomed the progress made in the field of human rights, but expressed concern about the situation of refugees.  Calling upon the parties to act swiftly for a mutually acceptable solution, he voiced support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative, saying it would contribute to the process.

GASTON KIMPOLO (Congo), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to the goal of total decolonization in accordance with the goals and principles of the United Nations Charter and resolution 1514 (XV).  On the question of Western Sahara, he emphasized that the parties must continue on the path towards a political solution, and encouraged stakeholders to reach a just, peaceful, lasting and mutually beneficial compromise.  Such a settlement would promote trust and strengthen security and stability in the region, he added.  Commending Morocco’s decision to rejoin the African Union, he said that country must continue to play its historic role in working towards peace and security on the continent.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Western Saharan question had long divided the international community.  With the recent increase in instability throughout the Sahel, a resolution to the dispute was now more urgent than ever.  Emphasizing that both parties must accept a resolution based on the spirit of compromise, he voiced support for Morocco’s autonomy proposal, saying it represented the only serious and credible framework for alleviating the suffering of the people of Western Sahara and for preventing the threats posed by terrorism, trafficking and illegal immigration.  In that regard, he stressed the crucial need to deal with the dispute in the context of a greater framework for the Sahel region.  Among other things, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy should ramp up his contacts with other countries of the region, he said.  Meanwhile, the parties to the dispute should work tirelessly under the exclusive good offices of the Secretary-General to achieve a just and lasting negotiated solution as soon as possible.

YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), expressing solidarity with the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories legitimately aspiring to self-determination, called for intensified efforts by the United Nations to achieve that end.  Security Council resolution 2285 (2016), which had extended MINURSO’s mandate, was an example of the Organization’s strong will to help the parties achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution to the dispute over Western Sahara.  Commending Morocco’s efforts in that regard, and recalling that the country had launched a massive investment plan to boost development in the Territory, he called on the parties to re-establish dialogue through substantial negotiations.  Expressing support for Morocco’s 2007 autonomy initiative, he said a definitive resolution of the dispute would help the region combat the growing threat of insecurity, which required more urgent action than ever.

JAGDISH DHARAMCHAND KOONJUL (Mauritius), associating himself/herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, warned that protracted delays in resolving decolonization cases may lead to conflicts and serious threats to world peace.  Noting that the United Nations Charter provided a fair and just multilateral system for the peaceful resolution of disputes, he appealed to all parties to redouble their efforts and commitments within the realm of international law in pursuit of decolonization so that the legitimate aspirations of those still living under colonial rule could be fulfilled.  The people of Western Sahara had been under occupation for more than 40 years now, and yet no progress seemed to have been made towards their decolonization, he noted, adding that the situation had, in fact, worsened.  Welcoming the recognition of Palestine as an observer by the United Nations, he called for the establishment of a viable State of Palestine on the basis of agreed international resolutions.  “We must not be quiet in the face of injustice and domination, as history will judge us harshly,” he emphasized.

SONIA ISHAQ AHMAD SUGHAYAR (Jordan) said that any attempt to undermine territorial integrity was against the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Emphasizing that talking was not enough to complete the decolonization process, she said it was high time for concrete progress.  Acknowledging the key role played by United Nations missions, she suggested that they assess the situation in the Non-Self-governing Territories and facilitate dialogue between the concerned parties.  On Palestine, she called upon the international community to end Israel’s occupation, stressing that it was critical to establish an independent and free Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Regarding Western Sahara, she encouraged all concerned parties to engage in meaningful dialogue and find a mutually acceptable solution.

HUMBERTO VELÁSQUEZ (Peru) said the United Nations must strengthen its efforts to end the suffering of the peoples of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories.  To achieve successful outcomes, it was essential to adopt the following two policies: decisive political will, and a case-by-case approach.  On the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), he expressed full support for Argentina’s claim of sovereignty over the Territory.  At the same time, he called upon both parties to return to negotiations for a mutually acceptable solution.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), citing recent positive developments in Western Sahara, encouraged the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to continue their efforts for a viable and realistic negotiated solution to that dispute.  Such a resolution would contribute to the stability and security of the entire region, he said, emphasizing that the parties must endorse and support United Nations efforts and make improvements in the areas of human rights and development.  Morocco’s efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute had been recognized by the Security Council in resolution 2285 (2016), he said, adding that the international community and countries of the region should make positive contributions to ensure that the Western Sahara could successfully embark on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Western Sahara question was a special and particular decolonization issue.  Recalling that his country had emerged from a situation of occupation, colonization and apartheid, he said that a United Nations resolution had allowed its people to state clearly that they desired self-determination.  Namibia called upon Morocco to demonstrate its respect for and adherence to the principles of the United Nations, particularly resolution 1541 (XV), and to complete decolonization of the Western Sahara, he said, emphasizing that the legitimacy of any claim over the Territory should be decided by the people themselves.  Expressing grave concern over recent increased troop movements in the Al Guerguerat buffer strip, he said it had been a wretched day when United Nations staff had been expelled from Western Sahara.  The Security Council should work with the Government of Morocco to ensure the self-determination referendum’s implementation, he said, urging countries such as France and Spain to work with Morocco to encourage implementation of the relevant resolutions and impress upon it that “the time for the implementation of the referendum has come”.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said that resolving the dispute over Western Sahara would not only improve people’s lives, but also address the formidable challenges facing the region, including terrorism, transnational organized crime, trafficking and irregular migration.  The Security Council had found Morocco’s autonomy proposal for Western Sahara “serious and credible”, he said, noting that it had been developed in good faith and would contribute to a resolution of the dispute.  Previous Council resolutions on the matter stressed the need for constructive dialogue between the parties in order to reach a mutually acceptable political solution.

MAX H. RAI (Papua New Guinea) pointed out that many countries represented in the Committee today, including his own, had once been colonial or United Nations-mandated territories.  The Organization had done extremely well in bringing about freedom of choice for colonial and United Nations-mandated territories, so that they could opt for self-government, association with their former colonial Powers or full independence as sovereign States.  Papua New Guinea called upon the United Nations, all Member States and Territories to quickly expedite the decolonization of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories around the world.  He called upon the Government of France, and the territorial Government of New Caledonia to ensure an equitable and fair referendum, conducted in a transparent environment, as to whether it that Territory would remain a self-autonomous region of the French Republic or become fully independent.  The economic future of New Caledonia and its indigenous Kanak people had still not been clearly presented, he noted.  On French Polynesia, he urged both parties to consult each other and reach compromise.  Regarding the question of Western Sahara, he said the ongoing constructive political process was critical to achieving an acceptable and durable negotiated settlement.

AGBENOZAN KOMLANVI DEDJI (Togo) said the question of Western Sahara was a particular concern for member States of the African Union.  Expressing regret that the concerned parties had yet to agree on a peaceful, just and lasting solution to that dispute, he emphasized that negotiations were the only realistic path to peace.  In that regard, he called on the parties to move from their fixed positions and commit to a pragmatic approach of compromise.  Morocco’s realistic and credible autonomy proposal represented a “happy medium”, he said, welcoming that country’s recent cooperation with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and its considerable advances in the field of human rights.  Other positive developments included the holding in September 2015 of municipal and regional elections in Western Sahara, without incident, he said.  Calling urgently for a census and registration of the population living in the Tindouf camps, he said the need to end the dispute over Western Saharan remained critical as it had dramatic consequences for the affected population and slowed regional development.

Right of Reply

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that is country knew the sovereignty principle well.  The United Kingdom’s relationship with the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) was more than a partnership, he said, emphasizing that each Non-Self-Governing Territory had the right to determine its own future, and that Argentine domestic law did not apply to the Islands.  Regarding Gibraltar, he said that, as a separate Territory recognized by the United Nations, it enjoyed the individual and collective rights accorded by the Charter.

The representative of Argentina said the Malvinas were an integral part of his country and were illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.  Describing the situation as a sovereignty dispute between the two countries, he pointed out that General Assembly resolutions called upon both parties to resume negotiations.  Among other things, he voiced concern over the United Kingdom’s exploration for renewable and non-renewable resources, saying they constituted unilateral changes to the situation in the Territory.

The representative of India said that Pakistan had made references to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in a self-serving attempt to bring extraneous issues before the Committee.  Such efforts were a flagrant misuse of the body for Pakistan’s own territorial aggrandizement, he said, recalling that the Special Committee on Decolonization was concerned only with Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Jammu and Kashmir, on the other hand, was an integral part of India, he stressed.

The representative of Pakistan responded by saying that his counterpart from India had made untenable assertions regarding Jammu and Kashmir.  The United Nations recognized that all people under alien subjugation had a right to self-determination.  India continued to perpetrate misinformation on the issue year after year, she said, emphasizing that Jammu and Kashmir were in fact disputed territories.  Indeed, the struggle of Kashmir’s people was a legitimate one, and they had a right to political support from the international community, she added.

[1] 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).

For information media. Not an official record.